We have been informed that Royal Mail have opened a formal consultation relating to proposals for the Post Office on St John Street, Chester. Full details are included on the attached correspondence and through the link below:
In addition, there will be a customer forum drop in event for customers and stakeholders to share their views on the Post Office’s proposal and also provides an opportunity to talk to a representative from the Post Office and ask any questions taking place on:
Wednesday 6th March, 3.00pm – 7.00pm, Chester Quaker Meeting House, Union Walk, Frodsham Street, Chester, CH1 3LF
Attendees can drop in to the customer forum at any time between 3pm and 7pm and if you’re aware of any local groups or stakeholders who may have an interest in attending then please feel free to share this information.
Chester Post Office®
2 St John Street, Chester, CH1 1AA
Local public consultation
I’m writing to let you know that we are proposing to move Chester Post Office to a new location – WHSmith, 5-7 Foregate Street, Chester, CH1 1HH. If the move goes ahead the branch will be run by WHSmith High Street Ltd, with extended opening hours including Sundays.
Why are we proposing this move?
This move is part of the continuing modernisation of our branch network. We believe the most effective way to secure the long term viability of Post Office services in Chester is through a carefully selected retail partner, and we are confident that our proposal is the best way of safeguarding services for the community for years to come. The vast majority of our 11,500 Post Office branches, large and small, are successfully operated in this way with retail partners and we believe this is the best approach to keeping Post Offices in main shopping locations and at the heart of communities where they play an important role in local economies.
Alongside modernising our branch network, we’re continuing to develop our services to remain relevant for customers. As well as traditional mails and other services, today’s Post Office network provides for the collection or return of online shopping, offers a ‘click and collect’ service for foreign currency available from over 3,500 branches and day- to- day banking for the majority of customers of UK banks – 99 per cent of UK personal banking customers and 95 per cent of business customers can now carry out day to day banking at any of our branches.
A wide range of services would still be available at the branch, with the exception of a cash machine. The nearest alternative external cash machine at a Post Office branch can be found approximately 1.1 miles away at Brook Street Post Office, 48 Brook Street, Chester, CH1 3DN. All Post Office branches offer free access to cash for the major high street banks and customers will be able to use their debit card to withdraw cash at the counter of the new branch, during all the extended opening hours.
About our retail partner
WHSmith is one of the UK’s largest booksellers, stationers and newsagents, operating more than 1,400 stores, with an extensive reach and a presence on nearly every significant UK high street. WHSmith has been successfully operating Post Offices within its stores since 2007 and currently runs over 130 branches. Throughout this extended period they have satisfied us that they will be able to successfully run the branch in Chester, by showing that they can deliver excellent standards of customer service, with trained staff promoting products and services in a modern environment.
The new Chester Post Office branch
The new branch will operate from a newly built dedicated open plan Post Office area located in the basement of the WHSmith store. The Post Office area can be accessed by a down escalator, stairs or a lift that can accommodate up to 13 people. However if for any reason customers are unable to access the basement area, alternative arrangements to Post Office services would be put in place from a designated till point at the ground floor retail counter as required. These arrangements would enable customer access to all of the services normally available upstairs except for a small number of high value services such as business banking and foreign currency.
Access into the store is level, with two entrances both of which have automatic doors, and directional signage will be provided from the entrance door through to the new Post Office area. There will be four serving positions, which has been based on current and forecast future business levels; three open plan positions and one traditional screened position which will also provide travel money services. Open plan serving positions are successfully used across the Post Office network, as an alternative to the more traditional positions and still have a partitioned screen but this is lower, helping to provide for a more personal service and discreet conversations when needed. Additionally, there will be two self-service kiosks for mails transactions including home shopping returns, E Top-Ups, and a range of bill payments.
We have stringent standards to ensure good access for all customers and our plans for the new branch include low-level counters, PIN pads and hearing loops.
A war memorial is located in Chester Post Office dedicated to those of our colleagues who worked for the organisation when it was known as the General Post Office (GPO), which included what is now Royal Mail. We will be working with Royal Mail to identify the most appropriate place to relocate the memorial so that members of the public can continue to pay their respects to those of our colleagues who sacrificed their lives. We fully recognise the importance and significance of war memorials and, once agreed, the relocation will be handled with great care and sensitivity, including a re-dedication ceremony.
We’re now starting a period of local public consultation and we’d welcome your views on the proposal. The change of management of the branch to one that is operated by a retail partner rather than by us directly is a commercial decision for Post Office Ltd and therefore we are not seeking feedback on this aspect of the change. However we welcome feedback and comments that can help inform our plans, particularly on the following areas:
- How easy is it to get to the proposed new location?
- Are the new premises easy for you to get into and are they easily accessible once inside?
- Are there any other local community issues which you believe could be affected by or affect the proposed move?
- If the move were to proceed is there anything we could do to make it easier for customers?
If you are a local representative, it would be helpful if you could share this information with any local groups or organisations that you know within the community, for example on noticeboards, local charities and in GP surgeries, to help our customers and your constituents understand what is happening to the Post Office in Chester. If you would like a supply of posters please let us know.
You can share your views on the proposed change through our easy and convenient online questionnaire via the link below. When entering the site you can use the search function to find the consultation for this branch either by branch name, postcode or the unique branch code 009614.
How to contact us:
Call: 03452 66 01 15
Textphone: 03457 22 33 55
FREEPOST Your Comments
Please note this is the full address to use and no further address details are required. Items sent by Freepost take two working days to arrive, so responses by Freepost should be sent in sufficient time to arrive before the end of the consultation period. Working days do not include Saturdays or Sundays. Responses received after the deadline will not be considered.
Dates for local public consultation:
Local Public Consultation starts: 30 January 2019
Local Public Consultation ends: 13 March 2019
Proposed month of change: June 2019
Post Office Ltd will host a customer forum in the coming weeks, and everyone will be welcome to attend to hear more about the proposed new location. We’re currently finalising details of this event and further information will be provided in branch.
We are committed to engaging with and supporting our customers and their representatives as we make changes to the Post Office network. This notification is being carried out in line with our Principles of Community Engagement which have been agreed with Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland and the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland – the independent statutory consumer watchdogs. A copy is available at the end of this letter.
Thank you for considering our proposal. Any information we receive will be considered as we finalise our plans for the new branch. I’ve enclosed an information sheet that provides more details about the new location.
To get this information in a different format, for example, in larger print, audio or braille call 03452 66 01 15 or Textphone 03457 22 33 55.
Principles of Community Engagement on changes to the Post Office network
We are committed to engaging and supporting our customers and their representatives as we make changes to the Post Office network. The following principles will be adopted when communicating about changes to your local Post Office branch.
We will Notify – where we are informing customers of changes around:
- Opening hours
- Temporary closure1/ temporary service interruption
- Re-opening of a temporarily closed branch in the same site
- Opening a new branch unrelated to a previous closure
- Location used by a Mobile Post Office within a community
We will display a poster in branch (or nearby if appropriate) to notify customers of the above changes, providing four weeks’ notice. Where four weeks’ notice is not possible, we will provide notice as soon as we are able to. For temporary closures we will include details of the nearest alternative Post Offices and our customer helpline/textphone.
We will Engage – where we are seeking feedback on a decision that has been made on:
- Re-opening of a temporarily closed branch in a new location (where the branch has been closed for more than three months)
- Franchising of a Directly Managed branch in its existing site
While the decision to proceed will have already been made, we will welcome suggestions about specific aspects of the change such as access arrangements and the internal layout. We will provide four weeks’ notice or, where extenuating circumstances prevent this, we will provide as much notice as possible.
During this period we will display a poster in branch and provide information online. We will contact locally elected representatives2, the Consumer Advocacy Bodies and selected charities3, providing clear information on any changes to services or access arrangements at the branch. We will ask locally elected representatives to share information with other key community outlets (such as notice boards, local charities, magazines, GP surgeries etc.). We will publish the outcome of the engagement online and in branch, providing a summary of key issues raised with a clear response to each and any changes made to our original plans.
We will Consult – where we are seeking feedback on proposals prior to a decision being made on the:
- Permanent closure of a Post Office branch4
- Permanent relocation of a Post Office branch (including the franchising of a Directly Managed branch to a new site)
We will carry out a six-week local public consultation, informing customers, locally elected representatives, Consumer Advocacy Bodies and selected charities of the proposal. This information will also be made available online and for a Directly Managed branch a press release will be issued to local media. We will ask locally elected representatives to share information with other key community outlets (such as notice boards, local charities, magazines, GP surgeries etc.).
The consultation will ask specific questions on areas where we would like feedback on access to Post Office services and will confirm when the change will happen if the decision is made to proceed. We will provide clear information on any changes to services as well as access to and into the new branch.
We welcome all feedback with the following factors being taken into account in making our decision, which we expect to make within four weeks of the close of consultation:
- Customer access to, into and inside the new or alternative branch/branches with particular regard to vulnerable consumers
- Any local community issues which could be affected by or affect the proposal
At the end of the consultation process we will write to locally elected representatives, Consumer Advocacy Bodies and respondents to the consultation (where practical) to confirm our decision and provide a summary of key issues raised with a clear response to each. This information will be made available online and in branch (where possible).
These Principles have been agreed with Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland and the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland; the independent statutory consumer watchdogs.
What to do if you feel these Principles haven’t been followed:
Please get in touch so we can investigate your complaint. We’ll explain in our reply whether we believe we have followed our Principles of Community Engagement and will provide you with the contact details for the relevant consumer watchdog (Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland or the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland) if you’re not satisfied with our response. The watchdog will independently assess whether we have followed the Principles of Community Engagement process (rather than the decision itself) and recommend any actions with respect to the complaint.
FREEPOST Your Comments
Call: 03452 66 01 15
Textphone: 03457 22 33 55
- We will provide an update to locally elected representatives if the status of the temporarily closed branch has not changed after 12 months.
- Locally elected representatives include but are not restricted to the Member of Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, or Northern Ireland Assembly, Local Authority Chief Executive, Ward Councillors, Parish or Community Council.
- Selected charities are local Citizens Advice, Age UK, Northern Ireland’s Disability Action and Northern Ireland’s Rural Community Network. All parties referred to in 2 and 3 above are encouraged to share all information with local groups and organisations who they believe have an active interest in changes to their local Post Office.
- There may be a small number of cases where due to circumstances outside our control we have no option other than to permanently close a branch in a particular location. In these cases the consultation will seek feedback on alternative Post Office service provision in the area.
- If the consultation includes more than four weeks in July in Scotland and Northern Ireland or more than four weeks in August in England and Wales we will extend the period by one calendar week. We will not start any local public consultation during the two-week period which includes the Christmas and New Year bank holidays.