It's a triumph against the odds (and against the government) and a tribute to a great team effort. We made it very clear that we did not want Essex Road post office to close.
I can't believe it's a year since we launched the petition with Jo Swinson MP; since then thousands of you have signed up to our campaign against the closure.
It's also a bittersweet victory as other branches in Islington are still set to close - part of the government-backed restructuring voted for by Labour MPs. But we've saved Essex Road for our community - something to celebrate. THANK YOU!
The threat to Essex Road Post Office is the latest in a series of betrayals of Islington residents.
We have already lost sub post-offices at Old Street, Amwell Street, Copenhagen Street, Westbourne Road, St Peter Street, and Southgate Road. Elsewhere in the borough, branches have closed on Holloway Road, Hornsey Road, Junction Road, Downham Road and Archway. This means that the remaining Post Offices like Essex Road are now busier than ever.
UPDATE: The Post Office now want to close branches at 100 Caledonian Road N1, 492 Caledonian Road N7, as well as branches on Blackstock Road, Murray Grove and Stoke Newington Road in Hackney.
When the branches at St Peter Street and Southgate Road closed, customers were told to use Essex Road instead. It's crazy to think of closing Essex Road now.
Essex Road is a Crown Post Office. Crown offices are not sub post offices. They are main Post Offices which provide the core network. If they are allowed to close, no post offices are safe.
There are no bank branches on Essex Road. The Post Office provides financial services to the local area. If people have to go to Angel for the bank, local shops will lose business.
Local shops and small businesses depend on Essex Road Post Office to mail out goods and submit official forms. Travelling to other post offices further away will cost them time and money.
The Government and Post Office say that that no-one will be more than a mile from a post office. That's simply not good enough. On that logic, pensioners from Essex Road would have to go to Hackney.
Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP for Islington South & Finsbury, voted in favour of the Post Office closure programme. So Post Office bosses may think she speaks for Islington residents. She doesn't!
We're angry that Islington has already lost ten post offices since 2000, and we don't want Essex Road post office to close.
The Government may think it's OK for people to 'go the extra mile' for the Post Office. We do not.
We, the undersigned, call on Post Office Ltd and the Government, not to close Essex Road Post Office, which is a vital resource for local residents and businesses.
SERPO's submission to the Post Office consultation.
Attn: Craig Tuthill,
Dear Mr Tuthill,
Save Essex Road Post Office
On 11 March, I presented a 5,000+ signature petition opposing the closure of Essex Road Post Office to representatives of Post Office Ltd at a meeting of Islington Council's South Area Committee. We made it clear to your colleagues that Islington residents do not want Essex Road Post Office to close. I am writing now to follow up our earlier objections and spell out the arguments I made at that meeting on behalf of the Save Essex Road Post Office campaign.
Serving a deprived community
Despite the media image of restaurants and chic houses, Islington is the 8th most deprived borough in the UK. Closing Essex Road Post Office will have a direct and damaging effect on the elderly, disabled and vulnerable in our community. Many older people living in London live in poverty, with poverty rates at 30% among pensioners in London being the highest in Great Britain. Essex Road Post Office serves a large number of pensioners and people with disabilities, as it is the nearest Post Office for a number of elderly person's homes, care facilities and sheltered housing blocks.
Queen Elizabeth House, Dove Road, N1 3LU
Mercers House, Essex Road, N1 3PF
Canonbury Community Care Centre, Halliford Street, N1 3RH
Isleden House, Prebend Street, N1 8PP
Herongate House, Basire Street, N1 8TJ
Bridgeside Lodge, Wharf Road, N1 7RY
Orchard Close, N1 3AS
Serving a growing community
Islington is set to build 1,000 new homes a year, many of them in the area of Islington bordered by City Road, Upper Street and St Paul's Road for which Essex Road is now the only Post Office. Significant new housing developments include NorthPoint on Essex Road; the Gainsborough building on New North Road; the Island development on Prebend Street; and the regeneration of City Road Basin to include 900 new homes. It is poor planning to make judgements about future demand on the basis of current business alone.
The most accessible Post Office in Islington
Essex Road Post Office is arguably the most accessible in Islington. It has a uniquely convenient site being adjacent to a main road yet on a quiet service road with ample disabled parking nearby. Essex Road Post Office is adjacent to, and has level access from, a bus stop served by 5 accessible bus routes (38, 56, 73, 341, 476) and with a sixth accessible route (271) stopping nearby. The building itself has ramped access and a wide doorway. I have met disabled customers coming from as far afield as Hackney, Highbury and Clerkenwell to use Essex Road Post Office because it is so accessible.
The alternative Post Offices recommended for use by customers of Essex Road Post Office, should the latter close, are 116 Upper Street and 5 Highbury Corner. Highbury Corner is situated on a very busy junction which is also a red route. There is no parking or drop off place, even for disabled drivers. The pavement is narrow and congested and there is no suitable waiting area for disabled customers.
Upper Street has no disabled access at all. It is an historic building with step access. Disabled customers have to ring a bell and be served in the street, which is dangerous and degrading. It is totally unacceptable to propose this as an alternative to Essex Road for any customers with disabilities.
Under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)1995 & 2005, it is unlawful for any provider of services to discriminate against a disabled person. I believe that the Post Office risks being in breach of its duties under the DDA if you allow Essex Road Post Office to close.
A vital resource for local business
Essex Road is at the centre of a lively small business community who depend on the Post Office. There are over 200 independent shops along Essex Road, which is recognised as a key local shopping centre in the Council's Unitary Development Plan.
There are a number of clusters of small businesses surrounding Essex Road Post Office. These include:
Canonbury Business Centre, New North Road, N17BJ
Islington Business Centre, Coleman Fields, N1 7AD
Leroy House, Essex Road, N1 3QP
The Ivories, Northampton Street, N1 2HY
Gainsborough Building, New North Road, N1 5EB
There are no bank or building society branches anywhere on Essex Road north of Islington Green; and none in the area of Islington east of Upper Street as far as the borough boundary with Hackney. The banking facilities available at the Crown office at Essex Road are absolutely essential to the local business and independent retail community. And in turn they provide a valuable income stream for the Essex Road post office which will not necessarily transfer to the alternative branches proposed, since these are too far away, and their queues too long, to be a viable business choice.
As already set out above, the alternative Post Offices at Highbury Corner and Upper Street are unacceptable, on disabled access grounds alone. In addition, both Post Offices are already extremely busy at all times of day. Customers regularly queue for an hour to be served, with queues out of the door. I recently visited the Upper Street office at 8.30am on a Tuesday morning, to find pensioners already queuing in the cold for the 9.30am opening. The Post Office at Highbury Corner is a temporary structure which is likely to be closed or relocated when the expected station redevelopment takes place. It becomes inaccessible when there are security alerts at the station or events at Arsenal stadium. There are also plans approved to redevelop the sorting office behind the Upper Street Post Office, which will involve building works affecting that Post Office.
Public transport links
Local transport links to both Upper Street and Highbury Corner are inferior to the public transport serving Essex Road. As already noted, Essex Road Post Office is served by 6 bus routes compared to 4 serving Upper Street. In addition, for customers already using Essex Road, there are no direct bus routes from Essex Road to Upper Street Post Office; it is necessary to change at the Angel. There is only one bus route, 271, from near Essex Road Post Office to Highbury Corner. Customers who prevously used St Peter Street and Amwell Street post offices have direct bus routes to Essex Road Post Office. Neither Upper Street nor Highbury Corner Post Office is within walking distance of Essex Road Post Office for elderly and disabled people. Both are uphill from Essex Road and both involve crossing major roads to access.
Effect of previous and current closures
In 2004, sub-post offices at St Peter Street and in Hackney at Southgate Road and Downham Road closed: their customers were told that Essex Road was the designated alternative Post Office. It is a breach of faith to those customers to close Essex Road Post Office now, and makes the basis of those consultations invalid. At the same time, sub post offices in Amwell Street WC1, Copenhagen Street N1 and Westbourne Road N7 in Islington all closed; their customers were redirected to the Post Offices at Upper Street and Highbury Corner, increasing the pressure on their services. Murray Grove sub post office in Hackney N1 is also proposed for closure in the current round; the obvious alternative for that branch is Essex Road. Any joined-up approach to the network would see that Essex Road Post Office should not be closed.
Two further subpost offices in Islington at Caledonian Road N1 and Caledonian Road N7 are currently proposed to close. Their customers are also directed to use Upper Street and Highbury Corner instead. There are good arguments to keep these sub-post offices open. The branch at Caledonian Road N1 serves the rapidly growing residential area around the regenerated Kings Cross. It is a foolish business decision to close it now at a time when the community around it is growing. The branch at Caledonian Road N7 is the only branch serving some of Islington's largest estates around North Road N7 as well as over 1,000 new homes in the regeneration of Hornsey Street and Eden Grove, and the busy community around the City & Islington College sites on Camden Road.
We now hear that you will not close Essex Road unless you find a franchise partner; or you are satisfied that Upper Street and Highbury Corner can handle the extra custom. Let us assure you now, that they cannot, for all the reasons given above: Islington's growing population; the existing queues at Upper Street and Highbury Corner; the lack of adequate disabled access; and their inferior transport links. We welcome the fact that the Council is actively discussing options for securing the future of Essex Road Post Office. There is a lively business community in Islington who have been given no direct invitation by the Post Office to get involved; holding a meeting in the West End is no substitute. There is no reason to close Essex Road at this time.
Genuine consultation means listening
If your consultation is genuine I hope you will consider these arguments seriously and reconsider the proposal to close Essex Road Post Office (and the branches on Caledonian Road). As well as our 5,000+ signature petition, the Save Essex Road Post Office campaign has held a rally complete with video on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3loGUaYLNow&eurl=http://islingtonnow.co.uk/?p=102. We have enlisted the support of the local newspapers, local Council and of the celebrity OAP singers the Zimmers. We have set up a dedicated campaign website http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/SERPO and a Facebook group. We have taken our protests to Islington Town Hall and to Downing Street. Now we are asking you to listen and to make the right decision: to Save Essex Road Post Office.