The post office in Martin’s in Reigate High Street closed yesterday (Tuesday 3 March), with both the Post Office and the borough council continuing to look for a replacement.
The rest of the Martin’s store, at 27-29 High Street, will remain open until the close of trading on Friday 27 March.
Martin’s is run by national retailer McColl’s which last year decided not to renew its lease of the site, and to resign from the post office franchise. McColl’s has previously said that it explored all options before making the lease decision.
The Post Office – which does not own the premises – has said that it wants to find a replacement post office for the town, and has been advertising the franchise.
A spokesperson said this week: “It was not Post Office Ltd’s decision to close this branch. We understand how important a Post Office is to a community and we are committed to providing a Post Office in the area.”
“We are looking at ways to provide Post Office services on a temporary and permanent basis. In the interim alternative branches include Woodhatch and Linkfield Corner.”
The search for a replacement location was raised at a Reigate & Banstead Borough Council meeting on 13 February. In answer to a question, Cllr Eddy Humphreys, executive member for place and economic prosperity, said: “We are working with the local MP and other local stakeholders to find a new venue for the Post Office and hope to be able to help in a successful outcome.
“WH Smith have been approached to see if the Reigate branch might be a suitable location and we are also working with the county council to see if they might have appropriate accommodation.
“I know the local councillors are also working hard to find a new venue as well.”
Cllr Humphreys told reigate.uk this week that efforts are ongoing, while a council spokesperson said: “Reigate & Banstead Borough Council is aware of a number of opportunities that are being explored following the closure of the Post Office in Reigate. We hope that a new venue is found soon.”
The three ward councillors for Reigate (Conservatives Michael Blacker and Rosemary Absalom, and independent Christopher Whinney) also attended a Reigate Business Guild meeting in February where the issue and options were discussed at length. Suggestions made by the Guild have included the library and the town hall, according to chairman Jes Chandler.
A petition has also been launched by local Conservatives to “Save Reigate High Street’s Post Office”, calling on both the Post Office and the borough council to work to secure a facility in the town centre.
But the petition received some negative reaction on Twitter, with questions about its purpose given that the closure is officially described as “temporary”, with the Post Office seeking a replacement.
Jonathan White, one of the petition organisers and a prospective Conservative candidate in this year’s local elections, told reigate.uk yesterday that the aim of the petition is to raise “the public profile of the issue” and to help show that there is demand for a post office.
Pointing to a positive reception on the street last weekend, he said: “If we can stand in the rain and get 100 signatures, that is a sign that there is interest”.
Asked whether the petition’s call for the (Conservative-run) borough council to work on the issue meant that it should be doing more, Mr White said the council’s efforts were “completely satisfactory” and that the petition was “as well as, not instead of” that work.
The petition is not in the borough or county processes which would require a formal response or chamber debate. Responding to queries about that, the Conservatives tweeted: “We will present it to councillors, which can be done at any time, as opposed to other routes, which are tied to formal meeting timetables which are inflexible. Other routes also don’t enable us to include hard copy signatures collected by our volunteers in Reigate High Street.”
Anyone looking for details of other branches, such as those in Woodhatch or Linkfield Corner, can use branch finder website.