Ready to open: Harrogate's new Post Office
Harrogate's central Post Office is to reopen this week in its new home after the controversial closure of its Cambridge Road base.
Despite a six-week public consultation and a campaign by the community and the town's MP to stop the move, the relocation to WHSmith was confirmed by the Post Office earlier in the year as part a similar plan for 40 branches across the UK.
The new Post Office will be located on the first floor of the stationery store at Victoria Shopping Centre and will open at 9am this Thursday, May 16.
Operated by the retailer, the new Harrogate branch is described as a "modern" and "open plan" with six serving positions and three self-service kiosks.Travel money is available but there is concern whether passport and driving licence facilities would be offered.WHSmith currently runs 135 Post Offices within their high street stores throughout the country in a nationwide agreement with the Post Office.
In the run-up to the move, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones raised the issue in Westminster.Mr Jones complained: “This does not feel like a forward step to me. It feels like our post office is to be downgraded from a Crown Post Office to something very different and potentially much smaller."Already certain passport services look likely to be discontinued. What else might be unavailable?"It is concerning that there is less parking outside and nearby to WHSmith than is available on Cambridge Road.”"I know a great many businesses and individuals who will be affected by any reduction in post office services in the town.”
The Post Office claims that the same products and services will be available in the franchised outlet, but Mr Jones said he was doubtful how the same level and standard of service can be maintained.The Post Office has dismissed fears that the new central branch will be less accessible than the Cambridge Road one.
Roger Gale, network and sales director for the Post Office, said the new location was still as central, was closer to the bus station and, though, there was parking nearby at James Street and in car parks at Station Parade.
He also said the Post Office had taken access at WH Smith into careful consideration when planning the relocation.
Mr Gale said: "There are three entrances into WHSmith. "From Cambridge Street on the ground floor the entrance is level with automatic doors, the first floor entrance within the shopping centre access is also level, with the entrance being kept open during store opening times and there is an additional entrance from the shopping centre to the rear of the ground floor of the store. "Access here is via a small set of steps and a wheelchair stair lift is also available at this entrance. For customers using the ground floor entrances, the Post Office area can be accessed by a customer lift, an up escalator and stairs. "WHSmith have confirmed that the size of the lift meets with all applicable legislation. "The lift can carry up to 13 people and can accommodate pushchairs and wheelchairs."
Mr Gale said a total of 98 per cent of Post Office branches in the UK are run independently, meaning that sometimes “and due to circumstances often beyond our control”, branches close.
Post Office services at WH Smith in Harrogate Services will be available from 9am to 5.30pm Monday-Saturday and 10.30am to 2.30pm on Sundays.Previously, the Cambridge Road branch was closed on a Sunday.
The current Harrogate Post Office will close for the last time at 17.30 on Wednesday, May 15.