Building delays for opening on the new Birchington Post Office planned for The Co-operative, 54-56 Station Road.
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has condemned news that people in Birchington face bus rides to Westgate for Post Office services - due to a delay in opening their own long-awaited new facility.
An email from Post Office senior stakeholder manager Martine Munby alerted him to the proposal due to “an unavoidable delay to the building work linked to an asbestos survey”.
She explained that although the existing Birchington Post Office at 76 Station Road will close on February 14, the new one at the 54-56 Station Road branch of The Co-operative will not open on February 15 as planned.
Ms Munby wrote: “There will unfortunately be a short period of closure before the new Post Office can open. We were planning to open the new branch on February 15 but this will not now be possible. We are looking to open the new branch as soon as possible and in the meantime will run a bus service Monday – Friday to Westgate Post Office. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience to customers and I will of course keep you updated on timescales.
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale says plans to bus Post Office customers from Birchington to Westgate are "totally unacceptable."
Sir Roger replied that this was “wholly unacceptable”, demanding of Ms Munby: “Why can you not – at whatever expense to the Post Office – buy space in one of the banks to host the facility in the interim? Post Office Ltd have had literally months to come up with an alternative and your company is now letting my constituents down badly.”
The manager emailed Sir Roger that the plan was to run a bus once an hour, from 10am to 4pm, from outside the existing Birchington Post Office to the facility at St Mildreds Road, Westgate, with seven return journeys each hour.
Post Office bosses had been planning to make an announcement at the end off the week but had wanted to give the MP, who has his constituency office in Birchington, advance warning of the problem.
Sir Roger said he could not understand why the discovery of asbestos had been made at such a late stage.
He said: “I am horrified by this. It is so incompetent. How can a company the size of the Post Office not get its act together.”
The current Birchington Post Office at 76 Station Road, Birchington - due to close on February 14.
The MP is particularly concerned for the many pensioners in Birchington, a community with one of the highest levels of elderly people in Kent, who now face a bus ride in order to use essential Post Office services.
He added: “Apart from anything, a visit to the Post Office may be for some pensioners the only time they get to talk to anybody in the day.
“I don’t care what it costs. This is their fault, they should put it right. I can’t believe with a little bit of intelligence that they can’t do a deal with one of the banks in Birchington to provide a service from there.”
The latest setback follows an administrative error leading to a second, ongoing consultation on the future of Birchington Post Office. It arose because of the fact that there are two Co-operative supermarkets in close proximity in Birchington.
Both branches, including the one at 78-80 Station Road, next to the existing Post Office had originally been considered for relocation. The wrong address had been included in documents for the first round of consultation.
The second and current consultation runs until March 12.
When clarifyint the situation, Post Office regional network manager Will Russell had said in a statement issued on January 27: “We understand how important Post Office services are for people in Birchington” adding: “In the meantime it is imperative that we maintain Post Office services in Birchington.”
Customers can make their views known by writing to: Freepost YOUR COMMENTS to Post Office Ltd, by email: email@example.com, on the customer helpline: 08457 22 33 44 or textphone: 08457 22 33 55. Feedback can also be given on line at www.postofficeviews.co.uk, enter branch number 238909
For the latest in the saga, see next week's Thanet Extra.