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Villagers fight for post office.

Byline: By Neil Mckay

More than 1,000 people have launched a bid to keep a village post office.

The news that the Blackhill branch is one of seven in County Durham earmarked for the axe in a national programme of closures has caused "shock, anger and dismay" in the community.

Some 1,100 villagers have now signed a petition to keep it open.

Kulvinder Singh, who runs a general dealer's store next door to Blackhill Post Office, has offered to run it herself ( but Post Office bosses have yet to give her a reply.

Derwentside district councillor Michael Malone said: "The fact that, within a week, 1,100 people signed a petition opposing its closure, reflects the feelings of locals.

"The council would fully support the offer by Mrs Singh to take over.

"There is an elderly community in Blackhill which relies on the post office. If it closes then they will have to catch a bus to either Shotley Bridge or Consett, over a mile away in either direction.

"This could have a devastating effect on the community. People who shop in Blackhill will do their shopping in Consett instead while going to the post office, which could lead other businesses to close.

"The threat to the post office has caused shock, anger and dismay."

Mrs Singh, who runs the local shop with her family, said: "We don't want to see the post office close, our customers don't want to see it close.

"It is next door to us with a partition through and I would be willing to consider taking it on if this would prevent it closing."

Diane Foster, 37, who has worked in the shop for 16 years, said: "People will have to fork out for their bus fare to Consett or Shotley Bridge. They will do their shopping there which will lead to businesses in Blackhill suffering."

Durham County Council has already accused the Post Office of "ignoring its responsibilities to its customers and their communities".

A letter sent by deputy chief executive Andrew North to David Mellows, head of Post Office Services in the North-East, said: "For generations now post offices, like schools, churches and corner shops, have formed an important part of the social fabric of local communities. The closures would be traumatic for elderly people."

However, a Post Office spokesman said: "The harsh reality is that many offices are struggling to survive because there are too many branches for the amount of business. But before we make a final decision, we are keen to hear of any concerns that customers and others might have."
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 1, 2004
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