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Devastating!

PUBLISHED: 16:25 26 June 2008 | UPDATED: 11:18 03 July 2010

ALL eight post offices in the Great Yarmouth area singled out for closure are to shut it was announced this week.

Following weeks of consultation the Post Office revealed on Tuesday that as part of a county-wide cull only three branches out of 69 were to be saved.

ALL eight post offices in the Great Yarmouth area singled out for closure are to shut it was announced this week.

Following weeks of consultation the Post Office revealed on Tuesday that as part of a county-wide cull only three branches out of 69 were to be saved.

It's left the legion of residents who supported campaigns to save their local branch reeling, with many feeling their views have been ignored.

Branches at Beresford Road, Lichfield Road and Northgate Street in Yarmouth, Springfield Road in Gorleston, Hickling, Stokesby, Upton and West Somerton are now set to shut early in August.

In Southtown and Cobholm residents were bitterly opposed to closure plans for Lichfield Road Post Office and mounted a strong campaign to keep their profit-making post office which has around 1,000 customers a week.

A campaign, co-ordinated by Jim West, chairman on the Lichfield Community Association, pointed towards traffic problems associated with the bridge, the lack of direct bus services to the main branch and lack of parking. Dozens of residents attended a public meeting and many took part in a protest march from Southtown to the main branch in WHSmith in Yarmouth's town centre.

However, it was all in vain as residents were this week delivered the devastating news that the branch would shut by August 5.

Reacting to the news Mr West said: “I'm very disappointed. I'm in a position where I can walk into the nearest branch in town but many people round here can't do that. We highlighted problems with the bridge, parking but they have not listened to us.

“I don't see what else we could have done. If I thought anyone had a chance of being saved I would have said Lichfield because I thought we had a pretty strong case.”

This week sub-postmaster Shah Haque refused to comment - remaining tight-lipped due to a confidentiality agreement he had signed with the Post Office. However, he was said to be devastated according to Mr West.

It's uncertain whether the shop in Lichfield Road will remain open once the branch closes in August.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition and wrote to the post office in a spirited campaign to save the Northgate Street branch, one of the oldest in Yarmouth.

Sub postmistress Jayne Nicholson thanked customers for the overwhelming support in a battle against the odds to save the business.

Northgate Street sub-postmistress Jayne Nicholson said: “We gave it our best shot but the decision was not a shock. I believe our fate had already been decided before the consultation even began.

“People worked very hard to support us but it was not to be and at the end of the day there is going to be a good compensation package.

“I feel sorry for our customers especially the elderly ones who will have to walk into town, to use the main branch.

“The support we received was very heartening, I am looking to start another business and already asking customers for ideas what I could do with the premises.”

Beresford Road postmistress Barbara Ebanks told the Mercury she was unhappy with the compensation package offered after spending £38,000 re-furbishing the premises in last two years.

“I was expecting it and do believe the consultation was just delaying the inevitable, the customers are very upset at the news,” she said.

“I am not happy with the compensation given all the money I have spent it is a bit of a financial disaster.

“There is a mortgage to pay on the building and I am not sure what to do with it, if I had known the branch was going to close I would never have made all that investment.”

The decision to close the Springfield Road branch was inevitable according to manager Jenny Clark.

“I think the Post Office appreciated people's point of view but they had been set a target by the government of closing 2,500 branches and had to adhere to that,” she said.

“Even if a branch had been reprieved another would have been closed elsewhere, that is what is likely to happen in Norwich.

“Business has declined since people no longer need to collect their pensions here and there are charges to pay bills.

“Many of our customers have said they are sad the post office is closing because it has been here such a long time.”

Mrs Clarke will take early retirement when the branch, part of a Day Lewis chemist closes.

Local MP Tony Wright expressed his anger at the decision saying he was “hugely” disappointed that these branches would be closed.

“I was assured that the consultation was a real chance to inform the future of our local branches, but this announcement seems to confirm that the decision to close these branches was a done deal.

“Post Office have clearly gone about this consultation with their ears closed. The wealth of local knowledge that has been channelled into the consultation has been ignored, and I am concerned for the residents that will lose out from this decision.”

Mr Wright said that a recommendation from PostWatch for at least one of the branches earmarked for closure to stay open, had also been ignored.

He added: “While I understand the need for the Post Office to restructure on a national basis, Post Office have clearly ignored the very strong cases made locally for retaining our branches.

“I am not happy with this outcome at all, and will continue to fight the matter even at this late stage.”

Leader of the borough council Barry Coleman said: “In my heart of hearts I'm not surprised. I feel the whole exercise has been a sham from start to finish. I felt we put forward some good arguments, particularly to save the Lichfield Road and Northgate Street branches, but they were completely ignored.”

Mr Coleman added the public would lose faith in consultation exercises.

Labour leader Mick Castle uses the Northgate Street Post Office and said that when it finally closes the main branch would be under pressure.

“Northgate Street is a busy branch - this certainly hasn't been based on customer numbers. I have not used the main branch yet since it moved into WHSmith's but I imagine these closures will create bigger queues.”

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