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Planned post office closures spark anger

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By Donald Turvill
Annan and Eskdale
Planned post office closures spark anger

IMMINENT Post Office closures in and around Dumfries have been slammed by local residents and politicians.

The company announced on Wednesday that branches operating within SPAR in Georgetown, Thornhill and Gretna will temporarily shut at the end of next month, after the convenience chain took the decision to remove the services from 18 of its shops in Scotland.

In a statement, they assured customers staff are currently investigating the options available to reinstate a Post Office service to local communities.

However, the news has sparked a backlash from locals.

Sarah Craig, who runs a business just outside Thornhill, called the closure of her local branch a “nightmare,” adding: “The post office was the only place I would use to deposit takings. Instead I will now have to drive into Dumfries and deposit at the bank which doesn’t suit my working hours.”

Nykita Kennedy-Moffat said: “It’s so disappointing that in the middle of a pandemic they decide to close the local post office. This forces people to head to an area where there are more cases of Covid 19 and they are more likely to catch it.”

Jackie Lee added: “It’s awful. Another essential service removed from a rural community.”

Ian Turner asked: “Does these mean buying stamps will qualify as an essential journey?”

Meanwhile, Thornhill Community Council has contacted SPAR’s operator, C.J. Lang, asking for a postponement of the closure due to the ongoing pandemic.

C.J. Lang told councillors that distances to other post offices were taken into account when deciding on closures, suggesting either Sanquhar or Lochside as alternatives.

But Thornhill Community Council pointed out both are 12 miles from the village and inaccessible by public transport as the bus schedule would mean long waits for a return journey. Furthermore, they argued that travel to Lochside entails either changing buses each way or a half mile walk in each direction.

David Formstone, Acting Chair of Thornhill Community Council said: “We are deeply concerned about the effects of this closure on our residents and local businesses. There are many people who still rely on a face-to-face service or who would be unable to travel distances by bus. We will do all we can to restore a post office for Thornhill.”

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth described the closures as a “double blow” and urged the company to seek alternative options. He said: “While the Post Office has said these closures are only temporary, it has also admitted that there are currently no alternative providers identified. I am urging the Post Office to find an alternative as a matter of urgency.

“There has been a Post Office in Georgetown for decades, initially as a standalone premises and then as part of a SPAR shop, so it is really disappointing to lose it.

“In Thornhill, the Post Office has said people should use alternative branches in Penpont and Closeburn but both are miles away and not accessible on foot, so this won’t be an option for many people.”

Fellow MSP Joan McAlpine has written to the UK Government asking them to intervene.

She said the Post Office’s “model of selling off premises and instead contracting out services to convenience stores” has “clearly failed.”

Georgetown’s Post Office will close on February 25 whilst the Thornhill branch will shut on February 20 and Gretna on February 27.

 

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