What Post Office plans to relocate Norwich branch would mean for customers

The Post Office at Castle Mall, Norwich. Photo: Andy Darnell

The Post Office at Castle Mall, Norwich. Photo: Andy Darnell - Credit: Archant © 2009

As the Post Office plans to relocate the city's main branch Luke Powell looks at what the changes could mean for customers.

Michelle Reece, who has ME, requires the Castle Mall post office for her business but says if it mov

Michelle Reece, who has ME, requires the Castle Mall post office for her business but says if it moves to St Stephen's Street she will not be able to use it.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

For around 20 years Norwich's main Post Office branch has been located within Castle Mall in the centre of the city.

But later this year the company is proposing to move the service from inside the shopping centre to WHSmith on St Stephen's Street.

It will see almost all of the current services carried over to the store, including the existing team of staff.

However some customers have raised concerns about the suitability of the new location with regard to disabled access and space to queue.

They are now being invited to discuss any issues with the proposed changes at a drop-in forum meeting next week.

But the Post Office has stressed that the new branch would have sufficient disabled access and was working closely with WHSmith over the matter.

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The company said the plans were part of nationwide changes it was making to help secure the viability of its services.

Roger Gale, general manager of the Post Office Crown Network, said: 'We are committed to keeping our services on high streets which we know is hugely important to people.

'We need to make changes so that we can continue to do that into the future.'

The Post Office said that, subject to consultation, its new branch, located 350m away, would feature:

• Seven serving positions - six screened and one open-plan.

• Four self-service kiosks for mail transactions.

• Opening hours from 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Saturday and 9.30am to 5.30pm on Tuesdays.

• Low-level serving counters, a low-level writing desk and hearing loops for customers.

The branch will be located at the rear of the WHSmith store on the ground floor and will be clearly signposted.

A Post Office spokesman said the number of counters was being reduced from 14 to seven as not all were used at the current branch at any one time.

The cash machine is said to be the only service that will not be replaced at the newly proposed location.

A spokesman said: 'We will be working with WHSmith to ensure that there is good access to the new, dedicated Post Office area for all our customers, including wheelchair users.

'We have been working with WHSmith for around 10 years and they already run around 100 Post Office branches so there is extensive experience.'

People will have the chance to discuss the changes at a forum next week in Norwich. They also have the opportunity to take part in a consultation until June 1.

Last month, Castle Mall boss Amanda Phillips said she hoped the public would back the branch to help ensure it remains in the shopping centre.

Speaking yesterday, she added: 'This isn't my decision but I would hope they [the Post Office] would see the benefits of a secure, dry and safe environment as well as a newly refurbished unit.'

The proposed move comes as the Post Office branch on Magdalen Street looks set to benefit from a major overhaul of services as managers today announced longer opening hours for the branch.

The branch will close for major refurbishment on May 31, before the modernised Magdalen Street hub reopens on June 16.

It will then be open from Monday to Saturday between 8am and 6pm.

To discuss the changes to the Castle Mall branch, visit Conference Room 1, 63-65 King Street, Norwich from 3pm to 6pm on May 18.

To take part in the consultation, visit postofficeviews.co.uk, email comments@postoffice.co.uk or phone 03457 22 33 44.

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