HOPES are high that Haslemere’s historic West Street Post Office could relaunch as a multi-use premises in October.
Thanks to ‘people power,’ the town centre branch in the former Victorian sorting office was spared the axe in June 2017.
A ‘Save Our Post Office from Closure’ campaign launched by former mayor Brian Howard struck home and Haslemere consortium RedH Ltd, bought the freehold of the building and have submitted plans to secure its future.
The proposal is for a mixed change of use which will provide two post office counters and a merchandise area at the front of the building and a wine bar at the back.
The existing internal partitions would be removed to free up a larger space and reveal the original historic features and a ‘mezzanine’ floor would be added with a connecting staircase to extend the wine bar.
No external changes are proposed apart from inserting roof lights. The wine bar area to the rear would take up about half of the ground floor, including storage, bar table, tables and toilets, and it would be an “open plan” space, with customers free to use all the facilities.
Post office opening hours would be 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am until 12.30pm on Saturdays.
It is proposed to open the wine bar from 9am-11.30pm Sunday to Thursday and 9am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Urging the scheme be supported in the application design and access statement, RedH director Douglas Howard, said: “The post office model has evolved significantly in recent times.
“As a result, it is no longer economic for the Post Office counter services to occupy the whole of the building as it currently only requires a much smaller area in which to operate.
“The continuity of the post office has been the matter of strong public support and the proposal to extended the uses within the building, is currently the only viable option to achieve this.
“The proposed expansion of the existing retail/post office use, to include additional retail floorspace and a bar will enhance the facilities offered at 3 West Street.
“This in effect, will contribute to the vitality and viability of Haslemere town centre by introducing an appropriate use that will draw in additional visitors.
“In so doing it would increase footfall to West Street and the wider central shopping area. It would also add to the diversity of uses within the centre.”
Supporting the scheme ‘wholeheartedly’ in his response to Waverley Borough Council, one resident said: “I am encouraged this application represents a viable future for an essential service which has suffered from a lack of investment at a time when, with bank closures, businesses and members of the public are faced with a lack of access to cash and the ability to deposit same and cheques.
“This application shows a diversity of service and I feel that the business stands a very good chance of being viable and of re-establishing a community hub.
“The building at present does not make good use of the space available but, with the proposed alterations, this could be much improved and the space better used for the non-postal aspects of the proposed business.
“The building is an important part of local history and community and the proposed changes can only improve and preserve both.”
Concern was raised by another resident, however, that the proposed post office area was too small and could mean long queues at busy times.
Respnding, he said: “Haslemere needs a large main post office in its heart, in West Street, with the Haslewey branch as ancillary. Any reduction would be hugely inconvenient .”