Post Office closure would hit village life and the rural area

Walking Alone Poll

Groombridge is in danger of losing the village Post Office with the news that the Postmistress is retiring. Closure would also impact several surrounding villages whose residents rely on the service.

Parish councillors are now looking at ways to keep the service running, following a decision by Rosie Wyatt to retire later this year.

Mrs Wyatt, 77, has served in the role for 27 years but her departure means more than just finding her replacement. The Post Office itself takes up a portion of Mrs Wyatt’s house, a situation she wants to reverse by applying to convert the store into residential accommodation.

However, Mrs Wyatt has been co-operating with the parish council, the postal network and a local retailer to find a solution.

Mrs Wyatt said: “Post Office Ltd are changing the way post offices are run and I am on a traditional Sub Post Office contract.”

She explained this form of contract was being phased out in favour of a ‘local post office contract’, which means more services are offered with an additional retail counter.

This would require a new outlet for the Post Office to be found.

She said: “If a suitable outlet cannot be found then, unfortunately, the village will not have a Post Office.”

Parish Council Chairman Diana Kelly said: “We are exploring the options, one of which is to run the Post Office in another shop.”

One possibility is Angel House Stores, a newsagent and convenience shop located almost next to the current Post Office.

“We have been in talks with the store owner and with the Post Office ‘network transformation’ team.

“The Post Office want to expand the range of services on offer but it will mean the owner will have to find staff for longer hours.

The parish has been doing its own research to work out how viable it will be for a new Post Office by surveying those who currently use the services.

Cllr Diana Kelly said: “Our survey found around 648 people use the Post Office and many of them also use Angel Stores.

“Many of the people come from surrounding villages which have lost their own post offices, such as Wythyham and Langton Green.

“If a suitable outlet can’t be found then we will lose the service.

“We have seen what happens in other places that have lost their post office, the heart of the village dies.”

Since 1981, the number of post offices has nearly halved from around 22,000 to 11,696 last year. The steepest declines were between 1999 and 2009 when 2,334 rural branches were closed, almost a third of the total.

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