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One of the council’s most senior councillors has written an open letter to the Chief Executive of the Post Office demanding it reconsiders moving Wokingham’s Post Office from Broad Street to WHSmith in Market Place.
Councillor Philip Mirfin, executive member for regeneration at Wokingham Borough Council, wrote in the letter that he was “extremely concerned” about the plans, which were announced in October.
He continued: “I speak on behalf of the full council in expressing our dismay at this proposed move just as we in Wokingham are at the midpoint of our multi-million-pound regeneration of Wokingham Town Centre.
“We have taken to heart the need to improve the facilities for our residents in Wokingham, and l am proud that we continue to do so. On your website you talk of your Social Responsibility and how you are helping to redefine and regenerate the UK high streets.
“Easy to say but (it is) not clear how your proposal for Wokingham supports this statement.”
Last month the council debated a motion submitted by the Wokingham borough Labour councillors and amended by the Liberal Democrats councillors.
An intense argument about how best to save the Post Office broke out between the two groups before Lib Dem and Conservative councillors voted to back Cllr Clive Jones’ amended motion, which demanded a guarantee on the quality of services offered to residents even if the Post Office did move.
Cllr Mirfin was forced to leave the council meeting early before taking part in the debate but his letter clearly outlined his and his colleagues discontent with the plans.
The letter continued: “The local post offices around Wokingham are always busy with the many parcel returns and some collections. The main Post Office has a perpetual queue of people collecting parcels and queuing for counter services.
“Minimising the opportunity at a time of expansion in both retailers and residents is incomprehensible. It is the very opposite of your boast of taking Social Responsibility.
“I ask you to please reconsider moving the main Post Office - better still, widen its services and capacity to take advantage of the additional residents and retail units that it can provide a better service to and you will profit from the experience.”
The Labour group started a petition highlighting their opposition to the plans and two executive members of the council are said to have signed it.
Labour councillor Rachel Burgess told the News after the full council meeting last month: “Wokingham Labour’s petition on the Post Office continues to attract signatures and we will be campaigning hard on behalf of Wokingham residents to keep the Post Office where it belongs.”
The full letter sent from Cllr Philip Mirfin to Post Office CEO Paula Vennells can be read below:
Dear Ms Vennells,
I am writing to you in my capacity as Executive Member with responsibility for Town Centre Regeneration at Wokingham Borough Council.
I am extremely concerned at hearing the plans announced by Post Office Ltd to close the existing main Post Office in Broad Street Wokingham and to move the services it provides to the branch of W H Smith in Market Place Wokingham.
I speak on behalf of the full Council in expressing our dismay at this proposed move just as we in Wokingham are at the midpoint of our multi-million-pound regeneration of Wokingham Town Centre. In our Masterplan published in 2010 we described the need to re-build the town centre, demolishing the 60’s façade down Peach Street and replacing those small shop units with modern sustainable flexible spaces for those retailers that value our market town.
We commenced the work in 2014 re-furbishing the corner of Broad Street and Rose Street to a very high quality that now provides for new facias for Clarkes, Boots, Boots Opticians and Dental Practice, Super Drug and Costa, adding more residential space above. In 2016 we completed the building of a new 529 space multi storey Car Park to provide for the extra residents coming to town from the 13,500 plus new houses being built around Wokingham up to 2026.
Last year in conjunction with the Town Council we commenced the complete regeneration of the towns Market Place which was finished in August this year and once again hosts a growing Market on several days of the week. In January last year we demolished most of the 60’s buildings on Peach Street and have built a new town centre for the 21st century. Waterstones and Gail’s bakery will be the first two stores to open before Christmas this year followed in the new year by Cook and a new concept local launch, Leafy Elephant a Gin and Champagne bar that also serves local food. With Peach Place we are bucking the national trend with tenants queuing to take on our new units. Anticipated to be all fully let and occupied by March of 2019.
This development also brings 22 key workers one and two bed apartments right in the centre of Wokingham along with four new Town Houses. These on top of the 39 new apartments being let at Cross Street and the many assisted living private properties being built in and around the Town.
Our next phase started earlier this year to create a new Town Park to the rear of the main Post Office at Elms Field, and it consists of a new Premier Inn, an Aldi Supermarket and an Everyman Cinema complex as well as many more retail units and more town centre Houses and apartment over the retail and surrounding the park on all sides.
The last planned element of our Town Centre Regeneration of Wokingham includes demolishing the existing swimming pool and gym and rebuilding a modern six lane swimming pool with a training pool for all ages. The complex will also house an enlarged gym and sports hall which can convert to a flexible performance space to seat up to 400 at one time, plus a brand-new enlarged Town Library, café, children’s play area and restaurant. To the side are to be built a further 55 apartments for our residents. This all to be completed by 2022.
We have taken to heart the need to improve the facilities for our residents in Wokingham, and l am proud that we continue to do so. On your web site you talk of your Social Responsibility and how you are helping to Redefine and Regenerate the UK High Streets. Easy to say but not clear how your proposal for Wokingham supports this statement.
The local post offices around Wokingham are always busy with the many on line parcel returns and some collections. The main Post Office has a perpetual queue of people collecting parcels and queuing for counter services. We are told that following Brexit, only Post Offices can supply International Driving Licences and yet despite showing on your web that Wokingham can provide this service, the nearest PO to provide this is central Reading.
Wokingham Post Office Counters could provide a much wider public service for the expanding number of Wokingham Residents and shops, pick up services like the supermarkets for the many online delivery businesses who can’t deliver because people are at work. Passport, driving licence and other more wide-ranging services that a well-planned postal hub could profit highly from providing to our residents.
Minimising the opportunity at a time of expansion in both retailers and residents is incomprehensible. It is the very opposite of your boast of taking Social Responsibility.
I ask you to please reconsider moving the main post office, better still widen its services and capacity to take advantage of the additional residents and retail units that it can provide a better service to and you will profit from the experience.
I am also aware that our MP the Rt. Hon. John Redwood MP has written to you to express his concerns about the closure.
Executive Member for Regeneration
Wokingham Borough Council