Naomi Long MLA said, “It is clear from the huge response to our post-back petition that people in East Belfast value this essential service at these locations. We have been receiving dozens of responses on a daily basis and the fact that we are still receiving so many replies again calls into question the length of the consultation period set by Government at 6 weeks, only half a standard consultation.
“We recognise that these are difficult times for Post Office Ltd and the Government are not investing in this service as they should; however, the last round of closures did not stabilize the situation and this latest round is unlikely to be any more effective nor is it likely to be the last. We need fresh thinking about how to make the service more sustainable.
“At our meeting, we made it clear that there are strong reasons for retaining each of these branches. If the proposed closures go ahead there will be no Post Office between Dundonald and Ballyhackamore along the Upper Newtownards Road or between Holywood and Strandtown, leaving a huge swathe of the Constituency without access.
“The closure of the Belmont branch would hit those with disabilities hard, as the only alternative branch on the same bus route does not have disabled access, whilst the routes to the nearest alternatives to Summerhill Branch are hilly and steep, with no public transport connections, again hitting hard those who have restricted mobility or low incomes.
Cllr Máire Hendron, particularly concerned about the Orangefield Post Office, said “Many current customers, especially older people, will find it more difficult to access Post Office services, and many will lose their independence as a result. Neighbouring shops may also suffer from reduced footfall, undermining this vital local shopping and social hub.
“In spite of the short response period, local people have clearly said that they want these Post Offices to remain open and we hope that Post Offices Ltd will reconsider these proposals.”