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Do you want the Post Office to move from Sailmakers to WHSmith in Ipswich? Angry shoppers brand it a 'terrible idea'

PUBLISHED: 07:35 06 October 2016 | UPDATED: 09:14 06 October 2016

WHSmith in Ipswich, which could get a Post Office.

WHSmith in Ipswich, which could get a Post Office.

Archant

Plans to close the biggest post office in central Ipswich and relocate it on the first floor of WHSmith in Westgate Street have come under fire from customers.

The Post Office in Sailmakers Shopping CentreThe Post Office in Sailmakers Shopping Centre

The Post Office yesterday announced the proposals to move its branch in the Sailmakers Shopping Centre onto the first floor of WHSmith in a move it described as making a “modern, open plan branch”.

But confirmation that it would be upstairs at the books and stationery retailer has left customers questioning how it will work.

There would also be one less counter than at the current branch.

Lynn Knights, 65, from Ipswich, said: “WHSmith are busy enough as it is. What are they going to do at Christmas time, it will be mayhem? If it is upstairs there’s the access issue for it too.”

Terry Mayes, 77, added: “It’s very convenient here by the bus stop, so it will be further to walk. I question more for the elderly and the disabled.”

A Post Office spokeswoman confirmed it planned to use the first floor, but said that a lift was already in place as well as alternative arrangements.

“In addition to stairs, there’s a lift that can carry up to 13 people and can accommodate pushchairs and wheelchairs. However, we always ensure that if for any reason customers are unable to access the first floor (for example if the lift breaks down) we make alternative arrangements so that most Post Office services are available at one of the downstairs tills. But we have a number of first floor branches in WHSmith around the country and they operate successfully – we have rarely had to use special arrangements.”

Others called into question how the narrow aisles in WHSmith would be able to cope with the additional footfall the Post Office would bring.

Amanda Oliver on Facebook commented: “Please keep it where it is. It will be a nightmare in WHSmith as it is so cramped as it is at the moment.”

Rhia Cane, also commenting on Facebook, added: “Shop isn’t the right location and already busy in there as it is. Bad move.”

Currently the plans are in the consultation phase, but the Post Office said that its existing staff would move with the store, and would offer all the same services and opening hours.

But the WH Smith store would have only four counters and two self-service kiosks – down from the five counters and two self-service kiosks in place at Sailmakers.

The Post Office added that it would have a low level writing desk and service counters and hearing loops would be available.

Roger Gale, general manager of the Post Office Crown Network, said: “We are committed to keeping our services on the high street which we know is hugely important to people. This proposal means we can continue to do that, into the future.

“Our customers will be offered the same range of services.

“Our collaboration with WH Smith helps secure the long-term viability of services for local customers.

“We are making sure we take the right course of action to sustain services for years to come. We must adapt to the changing needs of our customers, who want a convenient and flexible choice of when and how they do business with us – whether that is face to face, on the web or through new initiatives such as self-service kiosks.”

The six-week consultation period began yesterday in which the public are being asked to give feedback on the location, accessibility and community issues, before a final decision is made taking into account all of the feedback.

A target date of March next year has been allocated for the move to take place.

The plans follow similar tie-ups between the Post Office and the retailer, with other areas including Felixstowe, Bury St Edmunds and Great Yarmouth.

High Street Shoppers Reaction

- Karen Chapman: “It’s a bit stupid. I think you need a main Post Office that would be better placed. Can you imagine everyone trying to shop in WH Smith in the mornings?”

- Jackie Vincent: “Everyone knows where it is here, and it’s a better place for it.”

- Lynn Knights, 65: “They [WH Smith] are busy enough as it is. What are they going to do Christmas time, it will be mayhem? They haven’t got the room unless they allocated a whole floor. If it is upstairs there’s the access issue for it too. Wherever they put it I don’t think it will work.”

- Terry Mayes, 77: “It’s very convenient here by the bus stop, so it will be further to walk. I question more for the elderly and the disabled.”

- David Double, 71: “It’s always crowded in here – I very rarely use it now.”

- Linda Rose, 68: “I like this one better but it [a move] doesn’t worry me. If that’s what the company wants to do then it is fine with me.”

Social Media Reaction

- Rhia Cane via Facebook: “Shop isn’t the right location and already busy in there as it is. Bad move.”

Craig Woollard via Facebook: “Probably isn’t big enough. There are enough vacant spaces in that building anyway, so what is going to replace it?”

- Irene Wragg via Facebook: “Not good decision. Needs to stay prime central position. Easy access for all.”

Amanda Oliver via Facebook: “Please keep it where it is. It will be a nightmare in WH Smith as it is so cramped as it is at the moment.”

- K Mcc via ipswichstar.co.uk: “Usually when POs move there is a perk for customers such as longer opening hours to make the move worthwhile. This will have the same hours and a smaller area for use of PO therefore I do not see any benefit to move. Replied to consultation as such.”

- The Ginge via ipswichstar.co.uk: “We used to have a proper main Post Office that had 10 counters and was properly staffed in what is now the empty ex Lloyds TSB Bank on Cornhill. Having only four counters is not enough, when you go in there at lunch now there is queue of 30 people regularly. Where in Smiths is that size of queue going to stand without ruining access to Smiths? Further at the moment a lot of mobility challenged pensioners pop in to Sailmakers and pick up their pension then shop in Iceland and go back out to the bus station to go home. This will make it a very long walk for those people and effectively cut them of from the Post Office.”

- Ipswich Man via ipswichstar.co.uk: “Another backwards step. Like the Iceland in “Tower Ramparts”, only ever one till open, always busy, quicker and easier to go to the Felixstowe branch, and cheaper to park.”

- Sentinel Red via ipswichstar.co.uk: “Terrible, terrible idea. Its bad enough queues out of the door at busy times as it is without moving it. By all means add some of the automated terminals to a corner of WH Smith, to help deal with the Christmas card rush, but a very bad idea to relocate. The store in tower ramparts should be upgraded and kept where it is.”

A WHSmith spokeswoman declined to comment.

The town’s main Post Office was previously located on the Cornhill where Lloyds TSB was housed in recent years, before being downsized to the then-named Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre.

To share your views for the consultation visit www.postofficeviews.co.uk, call 03457 223344 or email comments@postoffice.co.uk.

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