Campaigners fighting to save St Leonards’ main post office from closing hosted a packed out public meeting on Saturday (October 21).
Hastings MP Amber Rudd, representatives from Post Office Ltd, and residents attended the event, which was called to urge the firm not to close down the branch in London Road.
Post Office Ltd first revealed its plans to replace or relocate directly-run Crown post offices in 20 locations, including the London Road branch, in July last year. Since then, several demonstrations have been held and thousands of people have signed a petition against the plans.
At Saturday’s meeting, campaign group members Rod Webb, Julia Price and Rachel Mount spoke of their concerns about Post Office Ltd’s selection procedure and public consultation process.
Laura Tarling, Post Office Ltd’s external affairs manager, defended the firm’s policies, but reassured the public meeting a final decision about the future of the London Road branch had not yet been reached.
Council leader, Peter Chowney, said the council would consider taking on the freehold of the building.
He said: “My idea is the council could buy the freehold and convert the upper floor into rented housing, using the rents to pay financing costs. That model has worked elsewhere. It is difficult to go further with this proposal unless Post Office Ltd decides not to sell the freehold to the currently proposed franchisee, but if it wants to offer the building to the council, we can do surveys, negotiate a price for the freehold, look at costs and so on.”
Jennifer Jones, from the Save Newhaven Crown Post Office campaign, said: “There is a precedent for council-run post offices, as the Crown post office in Manchester’s city centre has moved into Manchester Town Hall.”
Erica Smith, who chaired the meeting, said: “We want a sustainable, long-term future for our post office, and proposing that it becomes the ninth outlet for tobacco and newspapers in St Leonards is neither a healthy nor viable business plan.”