Published: 12:00, 19 October 2014
Controversial plans to move the Post Office to Budgens in the town were dropped by the company today (Friday) following concerns about the future of the convenience store.
The existing counters in Gladstone Road have been under threat for 18 months after the company announced it wanted to franchise the service out.
But doubts about the future of its "preferred partner" - Budgens in the High Street - have caused the move to collapse.
Post Office spokesman Valerie Antoine said: “Post Office Ltd has been informed by Budgens that the store in Whitstable, which was run by an independent retail partner, has temporarily closed. Budgens has confirmed that the store will re-open next week under their direct management.
“As a result, we are ceasing the public consultation on our proposal to relocate the Post Office within the Budgens store. In the meantime, the Crown Post Office will continue to operate as usual and we will provide a further update as soon as matters are clearer.”
Residents and shopkeepers supporting the Save Whitstable Crown Post Office campaign say they are "overjoyed" by the withdrawl of the proposal.
Campaigner Julie Wassmer said: "It seems ironic that the Post Office should have championed ‘significantly longer opening hours’ in its recent press release about the move, when the store’s opening hours were unpredictable of late, and its ever declining stocks raised concerns for many people as to what the Post Office could possibly define as a “suitable franchisee.”
"The store has now closed and the Post Office seems to have come to its senses. We hope that no other “suitable franchisee” comes forward, for without one, our valued and historic Crown Post Office service will remain secure."
National officer for the CWU, Andy Furey said: “Post Office Ltd has been desperate to get rid of Whitstable post office for nearly two years. Plans to franchise Whitstable collapsed because of the incompetence of the company and the fierce opposition of local people.
"This whole process has been an absolute shambles and still the company refuses to admit they’ve been beaten.
"It is absolutely disgraceful that staff working at Whitstable post office, and the local community, have been left in limbo for the past 18 months. They deserve to be given certainty that their much-loved post office will be staying in Whitstable and that their jobs are safe. Post Office Ltd owes them that at least.”
CWU area representative Mole Meade added: “While we are pleased that the post office is remaining where it is for the community in Whitstable, today’s announcement highlights the many issues we have faced throughout this process.
“Post Office Ltd failed to do any proper checks on their intended partners which is why they’re in the situation they are now. It’s unacceptable and no way to treat dedicated and hard-working members of staff and the fantastic customers of Whitstable post office.”
Budgens owner Binny Amin recently said he was in talks with the store's parent owner Musgrave but was unavailable for further comment this week about its future.
A spokesman for Musgrave said: "We have agreed with the retail partner of Budgens Whitstable that it is best to take the store into Musgrave operation and ownership with effect from the 17th October 2014.
"The store will re-open for business under Musgrave management on Friday 24th October.
"There is a public consultation currently being held separately about the future of the Post Office and the Post Office has issued its own statement.
"Budgens will continue to support, and be part of the local community and we thank our valued customers for their continued support."