Queues concern as Witney post office moves to shop

Duncan Enright at Witney Post Office, which is closing to be replaced by one in WHSmith   Picture: OX65861 Damian Halliwell

Duncan Enright at Witney Post Office, which is closing to be replaced by one in WHSmith Picture: OX65861 Damian Halliwell Buy this photo

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Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Witney and West Oxfordshire. Call me on 01865 425483

WITNEY’S post office will close today amid concerns about queues and access at the new service.

The Market Square branch will shut for the last time at 5.30pm, with a new service opening in the WH Smith store tomorrow.

The Post Office is closing the branch to save cash but said the replacement, in Woolgate Shopping Centre, would be open longer.

The current branch is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5.30pm and on Saturday from 9am to 12.30pm. The new service is to open for an extra nine-and-a-half hours a week, including five more hours on Saturdays and from 10am to 2pm on Sundays.

But some residents fear the store is not the best place for a post office branch.

Sheila Cuss, 75, of Newland, said of the current branch: “It’s used quite a lot. At busy times there are queues out into the street. In WH Smith there’s no room to provide the service. The shop is already crowded much of the time.”

Retired secretary Lyn Jones, of Burwell Drive, who uses the service up to three times a week, said: “WH Smith is so dark and dingy, whereas the post office is so bright and airy.”

She added: “If there’s someone in the aisle you can’t get through. It’s also an extra walk for vulnerable people.”

West Oxfordshire District Council Labour group leader Duncan Enright, who led a campaign against the move, said: “It feels like we’re losing an important asset to the town, which could do with improving.

“It feels at the moment like it’s been downgraded but we have the opportunity to make a fuss about it and continue to campaign to ensure we get the service the town needs.”

The closure is among 70 around the country aimed at cutting costs.

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Automatic doors are to be fitted at the new service and it will be in an open-plan layout including a low-level counter for wheelchair users.

Judith Wardle, from North Leigh, helped collect 1,200 signatures last year for an online petition to save the current branch.

She said: “One of the things I’m particularly interested to see is how disability-friendly the new arrangement is.”

Post Office spokesman Cathal Jones said: “The new home for the branch has been designed with existing and predicted levels of business in mind and we are confident it will be able to accommodate people in Witney.”

WH Smith spokeswoman Nicola Hillman said: “WH Smith has successfully operated post offices within its stores since 2006. “In Witney, we are committed to ensuring we integrate a post office that is suitable and accessible for all.

"This will include removing a number of freestanding display units, installing new slimline fixtures and removing a number of fixtures of product towards the rear of the store.”

Comments (8)

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10:42am Wed 12 Mar 14

H.J.Harris says...

If this new Branch is made uncomfortable enough, fewer people will use it thus justifying the move.
Am I being cynical here ?
If this new Branch is made uncomfortable enough, fewer people will use it thus justifying the move. Am I being cynical here ? H.J.Harris
  • Score: 1

12:19pm Wed 12 Mar 14

@expo2cents says...

? It’s also an extra walk for vulnerable people.” ?
Depends where you are walking from I would have thought.
? It’s also an extra walk for vulnerable people.” ? Depends where you are walking from I would have thought. @expo2cents
  • Score: 1

2:38pm Wed 12 Mar 14

King Joke says...

They closed Cowley a couple of years ago, and the branch in the Co-op works just fine. If anything, it is quicker.
They closed Cowley a couple of years ago, and the branch in the Co-op works just fine. If anything, it is quicker. King Joke
  • Score: -1

2:43pm Wed 12 Mar 14

Joanna66 says...

I have avoided shopping in WH Smiths due to the claustrophic feeling caused by high shelving and very narrow aisles, now I guess I have no choice, although I don't expect a pleasant experience and am so glad I renewed my passport and driving licence before the closure of our lovely Post office.
I have avoided shopping in WH Smiths due to the claustrophic feeling caused by high shelving and very narrow aisles, now I guess I have no choice, although I don't expect a pleasant experience and am so glad I renewed my passport and driving licence before the closure of our lovely Post office. Joanna66
  • Score: 6

3:16pm Wed 12 Mar 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

Joanna66 wrote:
I have avoided shopping in WH Smiths due to the claustrophic feeling caused by high shelving and very narrow aisles, now I guess I have no choice, although I don't expect a pleasant experience and am so glad I renewed my passport and driving licence before the closure of our lovely Post office.
"High shelving" is all relative to your height though. I find "low shelving" really awkward in stores.

You will always have a choice. The choices presented may not be the ones you desire though.
[quote][p][bold]Joanna66[/bold] wrote: I have avoided shopping in WH Smiths due to the claustrophic feeling caused by high shelving and very narrow aisles, now I guess I have no choice, although I don't expect a pleasant experience and am so glad I renewed my passport and driving licence before the closure of our lovely Post office.[/p][/quote]"High shelving" is all relative to your height though. I find "low shelving" really awkward in stores. You will always have a choice. The choices presented may not be the ones you desire though. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: -2

8:08pm Wed 12 Mar 14

dave from witney says...

King Joke wrote:
They closed Cowley a couple of years ago, and the branch in the Co-op works just fine. If anything, it is quicker.
Maybe the Cowley Co-op is bigger than a garden shed. Locals know that WHS in Witney, is one of the most depressing shops in town.
[quote][p][bold]King Joke[/bold] wrote: They closed Cowley a couple of years ago, and the branch in the Co-op works just fine. If anything, it is quicker.[/p][/quote]Maybe the Cowley Co-op is bigger than a garden shed. Locals know that WHS in Witney, is one of the most depressing shops in town. dave from witney
  • Score: 8

11:37pm Wed 12 Mar 14

windrushview says...

Witney WH SMITHS is such a small space..I dont go in there unless its absolutely nesseccary due to the layout and confined feeling.
My daughter is disabled ,uses the OLD post office often and has few problems.
She already has problems getting around WH SMITH WITNEY so wont go into the store..to get to the bottom of the shop and queue for post office services will be a nightmare .
Ok ..it is said that there is a lowered desk for disabled customers ..so was there at the old Post Office .
Witney WH SMITHS is such a small space..I dont go in there unless its absolutely nesseccary due to the layout and confined feeling. My daughter is disabled ,uses the OLD post office often and has few problems. She already has problems getting around WH SMITH WITNEY so wont go into the store..to get to the bottom of the shop and queue for post office services will be a nightmare . Ok ..it is said that there is a lowered desk for disabled customers ..so was there at the old Post Office . windrushview
  • Score: 4

11:26pm Sat 15 Mar 14

Witney_Positive_Thinker says...

I think the improvements to WHSmith are great and the wider aisles are much better for navigation. All of you who keep moaning about queues going out the doors of the old PO should be cheering, as now you'll be able to wait in the dry and warm... The old PO was 'light and airy'? I disagree. It was as tight and as dark as the old smiths layout if not worse, only made better by one single queue that moved like a line of sheep.

Bottom line is: Witney still has a post office, WHSmith got a much needed facelift and also removed a lot of the issues the gazette readers so readily harp on about. We should also remember that people still have jobs, and it works. Instead of going on at people about an irreversible decision, let's be grateful and watch... I hated the setup of the old PO, the new one in smiths is pleasantly surprising and I'm proud to support them both in the partnership.

Has Mr Enright been in there to congratulate the great service on offer yet? I think not...? (Is he eating humble pie?)
I think the improvements to WHSmith are great and the wider aisles are much better for navigation. All of you who keep moaning about queues going out the doors of the old PO should be cheering, as now you'll be able to wait in the dry and warm... The old PO was 'light and airy'? I disagree. It was as tight and as dark as the old smiths layout if not worse, only made better by one single queue that moved like a line of sheep. Bottom line is: Witney still has a post office, WHSmith got a much needed facelift and also removed a lot of the issues the gazette readers so readily harp on about. We should also remember that people still have jobs, and it works. Instead of going on at people about an irreversible decision, let's be grateful and watch... I hated the setup of the old PO, the new one in smiths is pleasantly surprising and I'm proud to support them both in the partnership. Has Mr Enright been in there to congratulate the great service on offer yet? I think not...? (Is he eating humble pie?) Witney_Positive_Thinker
  • Score: -1

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