Eastbourne residents say the loss of Co-op and Post Office store is a ‘grave situation’
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Last week it was confirmed the Co-op and Post Office in Meads Street is set to shut in February.
A spokesperson for the supermarket chain said, “The Co-op is moving forward with a clear purpose and momentum and while this often involves opening new stores, we also regularly review our existing sites.
“The decision to close any store is never taken lightly and, only after careful consideration will our Meads Street store close in February 2022.
“Our priority is to fully support colleagues, who have been informed. We would like to thank the community for its support of this store over the years.”
A Post Office spokesperson said, “The operator for Meads Post Office has made the difficult decision to close their store in February 2022.”
Since the news broke, the Meads community has come forward with concerns about the nature in which staff have been treated moving towards the changes, the future of the people living above the store, and the future of the store itself.
Meads residents said staff have been told they’ll be made redundant, but cannot transfer to another Co-op store and are also unable to apply for a new job until six weeks before the store shuts in February.
Residents also claim people living above the store haven’t been told what will happen to the flats. Currently there are three families living up there including eight children.
The Meads community is concerned over the future of the store with rumours flying around about what it could become next year.
Dennis Scard, the chairman of Meads Community Association (MCA), said, “When we were told by the Co-op’s press office that a new retailer was taking over the building we were hopeful that there would be a smooth transition.
“However, if some of the comments coming into our Facebook page have any substance, there is renewed cause for concern.
“Losing the Co-op is bad enough but losing the Post Office would be a devastating blow for Meads as it plays such a vitally important role in community life.
“The MCA is determined to do everything it can to find out what is happening to the building, which retailer will be taking it over, and whether the Post Office is staying. This is a grave situation which we are taking extremely seriously.”
To these concerns, a spokesperson for Co-op said, “Colleagues have been informed that our lease is expiring, and a decision has been taken to close this small store.
“In situations like this, colleagues enter a consultation period, an opportunity to consider and express their own personal preferences and choices, and those wishing to remain with the Co-op will be fully supported with finding alternative positions in the area.”
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell wrote to the chief executive of Post Office Ltd Nick Read.
Mrs Ansell said, “Of particular concern is that the Post Office branch is also co-located here leaving its future uncertain.
“I impress on you that the Post Office is the very centre of all our communities and the potential loss of this branch is of a concern to myself, local Meads Councillors, and the Meads Community Association.”
At the end of the letter Mrs Ansell asked Mr Read for a ‘future commitment to a Post Office presence in Meads [to be] maintained’ and for the matter to be ‘resolved quickly’.
Meads ward councillor Jane Lamb said, “I have directly contacted the Co-op as a Meads councillor to ask about the contract of sale that was agreed on the business and building but they have deferred commenting.
“I asked whether the Post Office facility was included at any point in the contract.
“This facility is essential for our residents given that we have no bank now and the nearest other Post Offices are in Old Town or the town centre which are around a mile away.”
The Post Office was approached for more information on the future of its presence in Meads but a spokesperson said nothing more could be shared at this time.
In terms of the future of the building and the flats above the store, as the Co-op does not own the building the company cannot comment on the future of the site.
According to HM Land Registry, the building – which includes the downstairs commercial store and three flats above – was sold for £400,000 to three brothers – Mahamoud Alibhai, Zulfiker Alibhai and Sultan Alibhai.
Attempts have been made to contact the three brothers to find out their plans for the future.