A Dales institution has been handed a reprieve after Post Office refused a Royal Mail proposal to permanently close a depot in the heart of the National Park.
Locals expressed their dismay earlier this month when it emerged that the sorting office in the market town of Hawes had been placed at risk of closure.
Staffed by local workers for the past 70 years, it saves customers having to travel 17 miles further down the dale to Leyburn to collect letters or parcels.
Although the Hawes Post Office run by Upper Dales Community Partnership was to remain, the threat of job losses at the sorting office was described as a “real blow” to the rural community.
The potential closure was first reported as part of The Yorkshire Post’s Crisis in the Dales series, which examined how changes in education, housing, transport and the economy were taking their toll on local communities.
Royal Mail confirmed that it had proposed “relocating” its delivery operation in Hawes to Leyburn, and that it would separately close its depot at Holbeck in Leeds and move it to an existing city centre site.
The organisation claimed there would be “no impact” on services to customers, but the final decision lay with Post Office.
Hawes sub-postmaster John Blackie yesterday said he had received written confirmation that the town’s sorting office was to remain open.
Mr Blackie, a county and district councillor and executive chairman of the community partnership, said he was delighted that Post Office had refused the request by Royal Mail to close a sorting office which had been in operation since 1945.
“I applaud its decision and the recognition it would not be in the corporate interest of Post Office to lose a facility providing an excellent public service in one of the most deeply rural areas of England,” he said.
“All in all this is an outstanding and heart-warming local victory for keeping services and the employment they offer locally based, rather than miles and miles away in the far distant towns, a lesson that needs to be taken note of by other providers of public services.”
In its letter, Post Office said it had weighed up its own views along with those of Royal Mail and the Postmaster in deciding whether the request was in its “corporate best interest” and decided that it was not.
Mr Blackie said his call to keep the sorting office open had attracted “very considerable local support” at a packed meeting of Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council last week.
“My case to retain it was that the town could ill afford to lose the local-based employment at the sorting office, and the local knowledge our two postmen demonstrate daily, delivering to remote houses in the 75 square miles of wild, upland territory their rounds cover, often along rough unmarked tracks, which would be lost when they retire or move on,” he said.
“The excellent service we receive would deteriorate and there would inevitably be a number of 40-mile round trips to be made by residents or businesses to collect letters or parcels at Leyburn, despite every effort we would make at the Hawes Post Office to try to avoid this.”
The letter outlining Post Office’s decision said that Royal Mail had no right of appeal.
However, the decision taken this time does not prevent it putting forward another proposal in the future.