Page last updated at 07:34 GMT, Tuesday, 3 June 2008 08:34 UK

Post Office to close 38 branches

Post Office Development Manager Sheila McCann speaking about the closures

The Post Office is to close 38 branches across Northern Ireland beginning next month.

Four branches originally earmarked for closure - in Antrim, Omagh, Kilkeel and Newtownabbey - have been reprieved.

Post Office spokesperson Sheila McCann said the decision to close 38 branches had not been taken lightly.

Alan Chambers, a councillor and shop owner in Groomsport, said the loss of the local post office would have a huge impact on the village.

The announcement on closures followed a six-week public consultation that ended last month.

"We believe that the plan offers our customers in Northern Ireland the best prospect for a sustainable network in the future, bearing in mind the government's minimum access criteria and the other factors the government has asked us to consider," Ms McCann said.

The four post offices which have been reprieved are Parkhall, Antrim; Strathroy, Omagh; Attical, Kilkeel and the Throne Post Office in Newtownabbey.

'Village heart'

In Groomsport, Mr Chambers said the loss of the post office would be felt.

"It is the economic heart of the village. It is where the pensioners collect their pensions. It will certainly have a knock-on effect for all the businesses in the community," he said.

Rev Duncan Pollock added: "It is not just about money. For the elderly especially, it is a social thing.

"The post office is a point of communication and interaction. We are going to lose all that and people will be isolated in their own homes. It will be so difficult for this community."

The Post Office said it would continue to provide a service through its network of 496 branches, which "ensures that over 94.1% of the population in Northern Ireland will see no change".

It added that there were no proposals for any further closures in the Northern Ireland Area Plan.

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