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Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Tuesday, 31 August 2010 16:40 UK
Community post office in Sheffield has a busy first day

Darnall Forum Post Office
The post office has been set up by the local community forum in Darnall

Nine o'clock in the morning and the doors opened at Darnall's new post office to let in a steady stream of customers over the first few hours.

It is a sign of the demand for postal services in the area, services which have been absent over the last year.

The new branch is not only welcomed by local people - it is the first in the country to be run by a charity, not an individual.

It could set a precedent for other community groups who want to run their own post offices.

Twelve months ago the original post office in Darnall closed suddenly, leaving local people high and dry.

It is estimated around 3,000 people a week used the branch at that time.

After it closed, they were forced to travel more than a mile to the nearest alternative at Attercliffe or Handsworth.

The Post Office Ltd said it wanted to keep a branch open in Darnall but it struggled to find someone to take on the running of it.

But Darnall Forum, a charity whose members are local residents, recognised the demand for services in area - especially from the elderly or those without transport who found it difficult to get to other post offices.

They began making plans, talking to local councillors, MPs and the Post Office itself.

Councillor for Darnall, Mary Lea, said:"We were able to direct funds to help the post office reopen. We were also able to bring together officers in the council with people from the Post Office and Darnall Forum to ensure we were able to go through the process."

Cllr Mary Lea, Darnall Forum manager, Neil Bishop and Rob Russell, Darnall Post Office manager
Cllr Mary Lea, Darnall Forum manager, Neil Bishop and Rob Russell, Darnall Post Office manager

The Darnall branch was made possible thanks to a £10,000 grant from Sheffield City Council towards the post office start-up costs and a £40,000 loan from Key Fund Yorkshire.

A year on from the closure, everyone's efforts have resulted in this new branch.

It is based in Darnall Forum's own offices on Main Road and is just yards from the site of the original post office.

Neil Bishop is the Forum manager and is in charge of the post office operation.

"We opened the post office because local people were crying out for it. They were desperate for a postal service here. They campaigned long and hard to get their post office back. Now I'm asking people to come and use it."

Groundbreaking venture

The way the post office has been set up is breaking new ground.

Sylvia Hamilton, Chair of Darnall Forum, said: "We believe this is the first time anywhere in the UK that a charity itself has been given the green light to manage a full-time Post Office rather than an individual. It will no doubt be encouraging news to other community groups that may consider similar action. "

Charities have been involved in running post offices for a long time now but almost all of them are in rural areas where the post office opens for just a few hours each week.

The post office in Darnall provides a full range of postal services as well as foreign currency, passport checking and insurance.

Its opening hours will be 0900 - 1730 on weekdays and 0900 - 1230 on Saturdays.

Bernard Townley - local resident
Bernard Townley was one of the first customers at the new post office

One of the customers who went in to use the post office on its first day was Bernard Townley and he was pleased it had opened:

"It's a godsend - because everybody had to go either down to Attercliffe or up to Handsworth and a lot of the old people couldn't get there. A lot of people were very angry when the post office closed."

Dave Smith, a field change advisor for Post Office Ltd, was at the opening of the new branch.

"We worked closely with Darnall Forum to open up this post office. It's a different model we're looking at here. We already have post offices in pubs and churches so this is another concept to help keep sustainable post offices in our network."

Any profits made from the post office operation will go into Darnall Forum's other community projects.




SEE ALSO
Community starts up post office
25 Aug 10 |  South Yorkshire
Criticism of post office closures
28 Sep 08 |  West Yorkshire


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