Registered Charity No.1087470

President: Mr. Ronald W. G. Smith Chairman: Teresa Travell

Darkes Lane Post Office

Decision Letter

The following letter about the Darkes Lane Post Office was received by the society

Final day at Darkes Lane Post Office Wednesday 25th February, new one opening 26th February.

Dear Customer

Potters Bar Crown Post OfficeŽ branch
123 Darkes Lane, Potters Bar, EN6 1BT

Decision - move to new premises & branch modernisation

I'm writing to confirm that we will be proceeding with our proposal to move the above Post Office to Unit 5 & 6, The Sainsbury Centre, Darkes Lane, Potters Bar, EN6 1AU, where it will be operated by Universal Office Equipment (UK) Ltd.

The change is being made as part of a programme of transformation designed to maintain and modernise the Post Office network, creating a network of branches that are commercially sustainable. We believe that for Potters Bar Post Office, transferring the operation of the service to a carefully selected third party who will run it alongside their retail business, provides the best way to retain this branch so it can continue to serve its community.

During the public consultation period we received nineteen individual representations from customers and local representatives. A 48 signature petition supporting the move was also received from a local residential care home. We also held a customer forum to tell customers about our plans and answer any questions, around 15 members of the public attended along with Cllrs Peter Knell and John Donne and Frank Ward, Chair of UKIP Hertsmere.

The feedback we received related to a range of areas including ease of getting to the proposed new location; whether the proposed new premises would sufficiently accommodate a Post Office; if there would be sufficient serving positions; parking facilities; whether the Royal Mail enquiry office would be impacted. Whilst a number of customers raised questions about these areas, we also received very positive comments about the proposed move, particularly around the location. This feedback was taken into account along with all other relevant factors when making our decision.

As part of the consultation process, Post Office Ltd also meets with the independent statutory consumer watchdog, which in Great Britain is Citizens Advice, to review all the consultation responses and to ensure all relevant feedback is taken into account in finalising our plans. As part of this review there were discussions between us particularly around parking at the proposed new location and ease of accessibility getting into and within the premises. Citizens Advice also raised concerns about the potential impact the loss of a cash machine facility might have on Post Office Card Account customers and sought reassurances around current and future service provision at other Post Offices in the area.

Provision of the cash machine at the existing branch has been reviewed with our service provider. Based on current usage levels, it has been decided that the cash machine won't transfer to the new branch. However Post Office Card Account customers and personal banking customers can continue to make cash withdrawals free of charge at both the main counter and the Post Office service point in the retail area. There are also currently cash machines at three Post Office branches in the surrounding area; Brookmans Park Post Office, Barnet Post Office and Cockfosters Post Office, as well as a number of non-Post Office cash machines close by to the new location.

We know that the Post Office plays an important part in the lives of customers, including our elderly and disabled customers and we want to make branches as accessible as possible. I am pleased to confirm that customer access both into and within the store will meet Post Office Ltd's own accessibility standards and all applicable legislation. As part of the refurbishment, the premises will have a new, modern frontage to include Post Office signage, as well as a service menu and opening hour's board. Automatic entrance doors will also be fitted prior to the move.

Royal Mail have advised us that the existing double aperture street mounted post box will remain at the existing premises, as will their delivery and callers office. They will also look at providing a further street post box outside of the new premises but this would be subject to planning permission. There will, of course, be posting facilities in the new branch itself.

The currently empty premises will be fully refurbished by the new operator, Universal Office Equipment (UK) Ltd, to provide a card, stationery and print store and a modern Post Office branch. The main Post Office area will occupy the right hand side of the premises, as you enter the store. There will also be a separate Post Office service point located in the retail area about two thirds of the way back and this too will be fully accessible to customers.

There will be directional signage from the entrance door through to the new Post Office area. Both the entrance area and shopping aisles will be kept free of obstructions and there will be sufficient space for Post Office customers, including wheelchair users, to move around and reach and use the Post Office area without hindrance.

The Post Office counter will be built to Post Office specifications, including having lighting that meets industry standards, low level counters, PIN pads and hearing loops. There will be adequate space for people to wait for service and customer seating will also be provided.

The new branch will have one traditional style, floor to ceiling screened serving position and two open plan style positions. Open plan serving positions are successfully used across our Post Office network, as an alternative to the more traditional style positions. There is still a partitioned screen but this is lower, helping to provide for a more personal service and discreet conversations when needed.

The fourth Post Office serving point located at the retail till, means customers can access a wide range of Post Office products and services without having to join the main queue whenever the shop is open.

To help customers know about our extensive range of financial products, including savings and insurances, there will be a financial services area and information literature will also be available for customers to take away with them. Our website and specialist customer helplines also provide information on what's available and how to make a purchase.

Universal Office Equipment (UK) Ltd have satisfied us that they are equally as committed to delivering excellent customer service as we are. Any person employed to work in Potters Bar Post Office will be trained to the highest Post Office standards, which includes classroom and on-site training. And it doesn't stop there. Just as with branches we run ourselves, the branch will receive on-going training on products and services, as well as general operational and service related matters. Post Office area managers will work with Universal Office Equipment (UK) Ltd and the branch team to provide support, in the same way they already do in existing Post Office branches operated by us or other retail partners.

In respect of people working at the existing branch, we have a strong track record of supporting our people through change. There will be no compulsory redundancies and our staff have several options available to them. We will do all that we can to find a solution that works for each individual - whether that is to transfer to our new operator under TUPE (the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) regulations and which they have the legal right to do; to look for redeployment elsewhere in the Post Office; or they may wish to leave the business and we have agreed terms in place to manage that process.

We recognise that some customers would prefer the branch to stay where it is and some people have commented on car parking facilities. Although the Post Office is not responsible for the provision of public parking, this is one of the local factors that we take into account when considering the location of any new premises. When developing our proposal, we visited the area to find out what public parking is available, including disabled spaces. On road parking is available along Darkes Lane, including outside of the current branch. There are no marked bays and although there is free parking, this is limited to 30 minutes and a ticket must be obtained from one of the pay machines and displayed in the vehicle. The Sainsbury Centre car park is within 50m and has 243 free parking spaces in total. 14 are designated disabled parking bays and there are also 11 designated parent and child parking bays. We therefore remain satisfied that the new branch will remain accessible for customers.

We are confident that the new branch will be suitably located and that Universal Office Equipment (UK) Ltd will continue to meet customer needs and deliver an excellent service, whilst helping to provide future sustainability for the branch and maintaining a Post Office presence in Potters Bar.

The current branch will close at 17.30 on 25 February 2015, with the new branch opening at 09.00 on 26 February 2015. From 27 February onwards, the new branch will open from 08:30 Monday to Saturday, with the exception of Wednesday's when it will open at 09:00.

Further details of the new branch are provided at the end of this letter. You can also find a copy of this letter on our website at postofficeviews.co.uk. When entering the website you will be asked to enter the code for this branch: 030005.

Yours faithfully
Neil Corrick
Franchise Project Manager

How to contact us:
Email: comments@postoffice.co.uk
Post: FREEPOST (your comments)
(This is all that you need to write on your envelope)

Customer Helpline: 08457 22 33 44, Textphone: 08457 22 33 55

Margaret Ohren