Concerns over mobility issues at Witney post office

Councillor Brenda Churchill

Councillor Brenda Churchill

First published in News

A POST office has been labelled as “unfriendly” for disabled people.

The former Crown branch in Market Square, Witney, closed last month with its services relocated to a counter at the WHSmith store in the Woolgate Shopping Centre.

But disabled people have said the branch is not easy for them to use, with insufficient space for wheelchairs to turn.

Witney Town Council has written to the Post Office with people’s concerns.

Leg amputee Deborah Wiffen, 46, of Highworth Place, mainly uses a wheelchair but can sometimes walk short distances.

She said: “I get a little bit of freedom by walking but if I fall over I could jeopardise losing my other leg. They should have had a hard-wearing carpet strip leading up to the counter so you have a clear way in and out.

“I only use it if I absolutely have to because it’s so dangerous.”

Councillor Brenda Churchill, who uses a mobility scooter, said she has been forced to use the Burwell Farm branch because she struggles to move around WHSmith.

Mrs Churchill said: “You despair sometimes because they never ask or consult to see if what they’re designing is good enough for the people they are designing it for.”

A petition against the relocation was signed by 1,200 people concerned there would be large queues at the new counter.

WHSmith spokeswoman Rosalind Cole said: “The store layout was reviewed, in a consultation with disabled customers, to ensure good levels of accessibility with improvements including installing new automatic doors, making walkways wider and removing free-standing display units.”

She said Post Office staff try to help disabled customers whenever possible and they would continue to review the store layout and staff training.

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Comments (5)

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6:37pm Wed 30 Apr 14

Myron Blatz says...

What do you really expect when you get the private sector running things? This so-called Government riddled with 'privatise everythong left' Tories is simply finishing what the late Mrs Thatcher started, by selling-off the 'family silver' and replacing public ownership by the 'roulette wheel' of money-grubbing private-sector shareholders. As for WH Smith, across Oxfordshire their shops are known for lacklustre service and prices which make even the Co-op across the road in Witney seem realistic! As we fast-approach local elections, this is the time to knock the local Tories off their pedestals of snobby rural dominance, as you touch your forelock at the polling stations - though under local planning, health & safety and disability regulations, I'd have thought WH Smith would have to provide disability access to all areas of its shop, including post office counters?
What do you really expect when you get the private sector running things? This so-called Government riddled with 'privatise everythong left' Tories is simply finishing what the late Mrs Thatcher started, by selling-off the 'family silver' and replacing public ownership by the 'roulette wheel' of money-grubbing private-sector shareholders. As for WH Smith, across Oxfordshire their shops are known for lacklustre service and prices which make even the Co-op across the road in Witney seem realistic! As we fast-approach local elections, this is the time to knock the local Tories off their pedestals of snobby rural dominance, as you touch your forelock at the polling stations - though under local planning, health & safety and disability regulations, I'd have thought WH Smith would have to provide disability access to all areas of its shop, including post office counters? Myron Blatz
  • Score: 1

9:02pm Wed 30 Apr 14

OutToPasture says...

BS8300 "The Design of Buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of Disabled People - Code of Practice" Demonstrates the requirements.

This applies to buildings but the same legislation applies to public transport, public buildings and other types of premises such as the Corn Exchange.

The law clearly states that building should be accessible to all and has been so since around 2002.

Surely if the new post office location is not meeting these needs then someone should be held accountable as they have failed to apply proper assessment for access. A low counter does not disabled friendly building yet.

The post office/WHSmiths isn't the only building which isn't disabled friendly. In fact, even the streets aren't safe for disabled residents. Has anyone ever notice how few of the pelican crossings make any noise?

Although I can empathise with Cllr Churchill, I should point out that access for a mobility scooter is not a required under this legislation. Just because you use one of these does not mean you are automatically classed as disabled. This is obviously a personal issue for Cllr Churchill, but she should not lose sight that this affects more than just her self.

The various councils and councillors involved should have thought of this in the building requirements when assessing the suitability of WHSmiths...

Obviously they failed.

Again...
BS8300 "The Design of Buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of Disabled People - Code of Practice" Demonstrates the requirements. This applies to buildings but the same legislation applies to public transport, public buildings and other types of premises such as the Corn Exchange. The law clearly states that building should be accessible to all and has been so since around 2002. Surely if the new post office location is not meeting these needs then someone should be held accountable as they have failed to apply proper assessment for access. A low counter does not disabled friendly building yet. The post office/WHSmiths isn't the only building which isn't disabled friendly. In fact, even the streets aren't safe for disabled residents. Has anyone ever notice how few of the pelican crossings make any noise? Although I can empathise with Cllr Churchill, I should point out that access for a mobility scooter is not a required under this legislation. Just because you use one of these does not mean you are automatically classed as disabled. This is obviously a personal issue for Cllr Churchill, but she should not lose sight that this affects more than just her self. The various councils and councillors involved should have thought of this in the building requirements when assessing the suitability of WHSmiths... Obviously they failed. Again... OutToPasture
  • Score: 3

11:11pm Wed 30 Apr 14

Witney_Positive_Thinker says...

Instead of continual council bashing, may it be at all possible that councils were only participants in their public survey? A survey set by two businesses in which the councils probably had no power to steer whatever the outcome...?

Playing devils advocate, it appears that we who grace these forums to heartily engage in thoughtful debate, think that councils are the first and only place to point the finger at for all issues. I wouldn't be at all surprised to read comments from fellow forum members believing a power cut on the Isle of Wight was the fault of Witney Town Council.

Whilst I generally agree with OutToPastures comments on DDA compliance, I would assume that works carried out to the shop floors of WHSmith must have been completed to British / European standards, or the job would not have been signed off by architects and building inspectors.

If we need to point a finger, let's cut the council a small break and bash the post office/smiths head offices to sort it out...

Night night!
Instead of continual council bashing, may it be at all possible that councils were only participants in their public survey? A survey set by two businesses in which the councils probably had no power to steer whatever the outcome...? Playing devils advocate, it appears that we who grace these forums to heartily engage in thoughtful debate, think that councils are the first and only place to point the finger at for all issues. I wouldn't be at all surprised to read comments from fellow forum members believing a power cut on the Isle of Wight was the fault of Witney Town Council. Whilst I generally agree with OutToPastures comments on DDA compliance, I would assume that works carried out to the shop floors of WHSmith must have been completed to British / European standards, or the job would not have been signed off by architects and building inspectors. If we need to point a finger, let's cut the council a small break and bash the post office/smiths head offices to sort it out... Night night! Witney_Positive_Thinker
  • Score: 0

12:54pm Thu 1 May 14

AlbertTatlock says...

Total rubbish! I am a mobility scooter user and the WH Smiths post office which I was opposed to before it's inception, is much easier to navigate than the old railings in the post office. I'm also interested to know how Brenda Churchil finds Burwell easier as its far too small for a mobility scooter and one has to park outside and walk in!!
Total rubbish! I am a mobility scooter user and the WH Smiths post office which I was opposed to before it's inception, is much easier to navigate than the old railings in the post office. I'm also interested to know how Brenda Churchil finds Burwell easier as its far too small for a mobility scooter and one has to park outside and walk in!! AlbertTatlock
  • Score: 2

10:25am Sat 3 May 14

willowsrich says...

I can't see that accessibility for powered scooters is any worse in Smiths than it was in the old Post Office, in fact it's probably better. To negotiate the queuing system in the old Post Office involved 3 turns to get to the counter and a further 4 to get out of the building, backtracking past other customers being served. In Smiths it's straight down an aisle, 180 degree turn at the bottom then straight down an aisle to get out again.

The bottom line is that some people just wanted to hang on the the old building and Crown office status and will do anything to critisise Post Office Counters or Smiths. In reality all that matters is that the services are still available and accessible. My experience of the Post Office in Smiths is that the queues are shorter, the service faster and the opening hours longer and more customer friendly.

Overall a good development for Witney, let's move on and get out of the past.
I can't see that accessibility for powered scooters is any worse in Smiths than it was in the old Post Office, in fact it's probably better. To negotiate the queuing system in the old Post Office involved 3 turns to get to the counter and a further 4 to get out of the building, backtracking past other customers being served. In Smiths it's straight down an aisle, 180 degree turn at the bottom then straight down an aisle to get out again. The bottom line is that some people just wanted to hang on the the old building and Crown office status and will do anything to critisise Post Office Counters or Smiths. In reality all that matters is that the services are still available and accessible. My experience of the Post Office in Smiths is that the queues are shorter, the service faster and the opening hours longer and more customer friendly. Overall a good development for Witney, let's move on and get out of the past. willowsrich
  • Score: 1

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