Uckfield Post Office to move to WH Smith

The proposed new home of the Post Office by Ron Smith
The proposed new home of the Post Office by Ron Smith

The Post Office is holding a customer forum on its plans to relocate the Uckfield branch.

Everyone’s invited to the forum from 5.30pm on Friday, October 25 at The Civic Centre. It aims to give customers information about the move from the current stand-alone Crown branch to the High Street branch of Smiths.

The forum is part of a six-week consultation process where people can make their views known through an online questionnaire at: postofficeviews.co.uk, via email to: comments@postoffice.co.uk, the customer helpline on: 08457 223344 or textphone: 08457 22 33 55.

A Post Office spokesman said: “We welcome feedback on issues such as location, proposed premises, accessibility or community matters customers would like considered before a final decision is made. The consultation will close on November 25 and the proposed month for the relocation is January next year.”

In a press statement the Post Office says this is part of a major modernisation programme across the network designed to ensure branches are sustainable, profitable and no longer reliant on Government funding. The spokesman pointed out it should be easier for customers to do business through longer opening hours and modern, open plan environments.

Uckfield Post Office is one of 369 Crown branches directly owned by Post Office Ltd., but most - more than 10,000 - are run in shops.

There will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the move and all staff have the legal right to transfer to the new operator if they wish.

Crown Network manager Roger Gale said: “We are committed to keeping a branch in Uckfield and maintaining the same levels of service to customers.

Subject to consultation, Uckfield Post Office will have three serving positions following its move. There will be a mixture of one screened and two open-plan counters. The same range of products and services, plus National Lottery tickets, will be available. Opening hours would be 9am-5.30pm Monday to Saturday and 10am-2pm on Sundays. There will also be a private consultation room for appointment-based discussions around financial and telephone services.

But the news is not welcomed by everyone. Uckfield town councillor Alan Whittaker repeated concerns he expressed when the closure was first mooted. “I still feel this is a move too far. The Post Office is a social service. Now it is going to just be an additional sales point in a national retailer with staff who are used to selling CDs.”

Former Post Office worker David Nunn, who served at the Crown counter for 25 years, said: “This is a retrograde step. The shop is very cramped. There’s bound to be a reduction in service. It’s difficult to get into the shop anyway at present, you have to struggle between the aisles. The lighting is poor too, very gloomy. It’s a bit like selling off Royal Mail. The Post Office should be a service, not just for profit. In a few years people will ask: “Why can’t we have a proper Post Office in Uckfield?’”