Post Office bosses have defended plans to close Keighley’s main branch and shift the facility into WH Smith.
They refute allegations there will be insufficient space within the Airedale Shopping Centre store for postal services.
Speaking at a customer forum event in Central Hall, Keighley, Steve Bruckshaw – a senior stakeholder manager with Post Office Ltd – said the layout of the WH Smith outlet would be reconfigured to create room.
“We have not had a great volume of comments so far during the consultation, but some people have expressed concerns about the available space,” he told the Keighley News.
“I’m satisfied this won’t be an issue. The post office will be situated at the back of the premises, and the retail provision in the store is being shifted around to create the necessary room.
“We have had an excellent relationship with WH Smith since 2006, and there are fantastic examples around the country of post offices operating very successfully within stores.
“Several people have told us they would welcome the new location in Keighley, where they would no longer have to queue in all weathers waiting for it to open.”
John Dutton, national account manager with the Post Office, agreed the space issue was a common concern amongst the public.
But he said: “Access is actually a lot better in many WH Smith stores than in post offices because our buildings tend to be older and there is not much you can do with them.”
Only about half-a-dozen people attended last Wednesday’s drop-in event, and not everyone was convinced by what they were told.
Keighley resident, Charlie Bhow-mick, said: “I cannot see how there is going to be nearly enough space in WH Smith’s for this. On Monday mornings, you see massive queues outside the post office – how will they cope with that in Smith’s, which is already cramped?”
Also among the visitors was John Grogan, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Keighley.
He said: “Sadly, I think it is a done deal that Keighley Crown Post Office will close and WH Smith’s will take over the franchise.
“Representatives of both organisations have told me once public consultation had been started on the bookseller running a particular post office, the final outcome had always been a transfer of service.
“I still think there is not nearly enough space available at the back of WH Smith’s to give the same professional service as currently happens in the post office.”
The new facility would have six counters – four open-plan and two secure – and there would be a dedicated queuing area.
Mr Grogan said staff at the existing Towngate post office would be able to transfer on the same rates of pay, or take redundancy, but any new recruits in future would be on the minimum wage. “I think a company that made more than £100 million in profit last year should be able to do better than that,” he added.
The public consultation runs until February 3 and the proposed move would take place in March or April.