Now that their press release has been backed up by the full Northern Ireland decision booklet, some of the themes from the public consultation and the Post Office’s response around the closure of the Belmont post office can be read.
For interest - and to save you from having to download the full 89 page report - I’ve reproduced the Belmont section below. (As well as closing branches, the Post Office seem to be phasing out paragraphs too, so I’ve added a few extra ones to aid the legibility.)
Post Office® Belmont branch
The main concerns expressed by respondents during local public consultation in relation to our proposal to close this branch related to the relatively large proportion of elderly and disabled people in the local area, many of whom respondents considered may not have access to private transport and who might therefore find it difficult to access alternative branches.
Respondents commented on the perceived poorer parking facilities available at the alternative branches and the inadequate level of disabled access at Post Office® Strandtown branch, which also has shorter opening hours.
Respondents also expressed concerns that the proposed closure might have a detrimental effect on local business customers, who comprise the majority of customer transactions at the branch.
Respondents considered Post Office® Belmont branch as always busy, conveniently located with ample parking facilities and that it has level access for customers with mobility difficulties. Respondents praised the staff at Post Office® Belmont branch for providing an excellent service and claimed that the branch is part of the social fabric of the local community.
Two petitions and four campaigns were submitted during the local public consultation, opposing the proposed closure.
Post Office Limited has considered all responses received during the local public consultation and a review of this proposal has been undertaken.
Approximately twenty percent of the population of East Belfast is of retirement age and there is a high proportion of care homes for the elderly in the area. However, the residents of the care homes do not generally use the Post Office® branch for collecting their pension/benefit payments.
The two nearest alternative branches, Post Office® Ballyhackamore branch and Post Office® Strandtown branch, are each located approximately half a mile away and offer car parking facilities.
Post Office Limited considers that both of these nearest alternative branches have the capacity to absorb the expected increase in customer levels that may arise if Post Office® Belmont branch is closed. In addition, there is a half-hourly bus service to Post Office® Strandtown branch from Post Office® Belmont branch which offers free travel for people over the age of 65.
Post Office® Ballyhackamore branch has good access into the branch for customers. We will be reviewing customer access at Post Office® Strandtown branch with a view to improving the ease of physical access to the branch and an extension of the current opening hours will also be taken under consideration.
Taking these and all other relevant factors into consideration, including the needs of more vulnerable customers, Post Office Limited has decided to proceed with the closure of Post Office® Belmont branch.
Belmont Post Office
The plan suggests that with the closure of Belmont Road migrating business will be satisfactorily accommodated at the Strandtown and Ballyhackamore branches. However, a high level of objection to this closure was received during public consultation on the grounds that the alternative branches are inaccessible in terms of DDA compliance, parking, public transport, queuing, safety of customers on petrol forecourt and opening hours.
Also, since this community has already experienced a loss of the Knocknagoney Post Office under the Urban Reinvention Programme, withdrawal of this additional post office will lead to further disruption of customers living in this area. A significantly high proportion of elderly customers who reside in this area rely heavily on this post office, as do numerous SMEs and schools which use the post office daily.
Postwatch maintains its opposition to this proposed closure. Furthermore we would maintain that coupled with the proposed closure of Summerhill Post Office, Post Office Limited are leaving an unacceptable gap in the network within this area. Additionally, we would question the capacity of Ballyhackamore branch in managing migrating customers from both Summerhill and Belmont Post Offices.
That’s probably the end of Post Office-related posts for a while.