Yorkshire villagers face fight to save post office before existing building is demolished for housing

An Yorkshire village could be left without a post office unless an agreement is reached for a temporary service by April.

Leconfield Post Office

Leconfield Parish Council is currently in talks with Post Office Ltd to set up a temporary counter in the East Riding village’s Recreation Club before the existing building is demolished for housing.

Margaret Archer, postmistress at the current office in Main Street for 23 years, claimed those efforts had reached stalemate because the parish council refused to foot the costs.

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Mrs Archer added she had made the “very sad” decision to close the current Post Office on Friday, April 29 because her contract for the building had run out.

But parish council clerk Mike Huzzard said the authority’s was not prepared to cover running costs if it would be a “financial burden”.

The clerk added the parish council was “bending over backwards” to strike a deal with the Post Office for a temporary service, even if it was a reduced outreach one.

Coun Benard Gateshill, East Riding Council ward member for Beverley Rural which includes Leconfield, said the Post Office’s closure would mean residents having to travel to Cherry Burton or Beverley.

He added they were hard for elderly residents to get to as several do not drive, leaving them reliant on sporadic bus services with coronavirus making the situation worse.

It comes as developers Elmfield Estates are set to tear the current Post Office down to make way for an access road to 41 new homes and two retail units.

An Elmfield Estates spokesperson said the company had spoken to a number of national retailers about setting up a Post Office in a shop in one of the units.

However, retailers had told them the units would be too small and their policy was not to include one unless there was already a Post Office there.

Mrs Archer said the estimated cost of plans for the Recreation Hall move had run into the thousands but the expiry of her contact had forced her hand on the closure.

The postmistress said: “The parish council said they didn’t see why they should pay anything towards it and that it wasn’t viable for them to do it. My contract ran out last week but my property manager gave me a bit of grace, but because I’ve not had a lot of time I had to make the decision to close there and then.

“I’m still fighting to get it put in the hall as an outreach service, even if it’s just for a couple of days a week or a couple of hours. I’m so upset about the whole thing, I’ve worked at the Post Office and served the community for 23 years.

“If nothing is done the village will lose the service, and the problem is the current building is in an appalling state with the roof leaking and other issues and it’s being torn down in a few weeks regardless. I want to be able to retire knowing that I left the village with some form of service.”

Mr Huzzard said the parish council’s “door will always be open” for further talks with Mrs Archer, adding the authority agreed that keeping a local service was in everyone’s interests.

The clerk said: “We’ve said from day one that we want to move services into the hall, that’s not debated. If there is no postal service in the village it would create real hardship for people, and we don’t want more cars driving around causing pollution to get to other Post Offices.

“But this is a business we’re dealing with, it’s not for the parish council to fund a private company with public money and we’ve said we can’t if it would be a financial burden on our precept.

“It would create a dangerous precedent for other businesses, we’re not trying to make money out of this but we don’t want to lose money either. We want to carry on having discussions with the postmistress, we’re more than happy to sit down and thrash this out through intelligent, commercial discussions.

“We want Post Office services to carry on being provided in the village and we will keep pushing and pushing to get it over the line, but the stumbling doesn’t lie at the parish council’s door.”

Talks between the parish council and Post Office Ltd remain ongoing, with further details expected from Monday, March 8.