The message is clear: Save the post offices

THOUSANDS of people have joined the battle to save post offices, taking to the streets with placards and signing petitions

Katie Davies

THOUSANDS of people have joined the battle to save post offices, taking to the streets with placards and signing petitions.

Big-names including Terry Gilliam, Fiona Bruce, Sadie Frost and Victoria Wood have all registered their opposition to closures in South End Green, England's Lane and Highgate High Street.

Other branches facing the axe in April include Child's Hill, Alexandra Park Road, East Finchley, Pennine Parade in Golders Green, Cricklewood and Crowndale Road in Camden Town. The plans were revealed exclusively by the Ham&High two weeks ago.

Crisis talks are being held with Post Office Ltd while consultation on the plans is under way. Campaigners claim the cuts will destroy a vital service and damage our already ailing high streets.

Meanwhile Camden Council has said it is interested in hosting post office services in local authority buildings in a bid to fill the void.

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Council deputy leader Andrew Marshall said: "We are sending out a response to the consultation this week opposing all the closures. If there is a possibility of local authorities hosting post offices the government needs to tell us how we could, and how much they would pay us. We are looking at this in the long term, but for the short term we are responding to the consultation."

The Mayor of London has threatened a judicial review of the consultation period, claiming the six-week opportunity is too short and should be extended to 12 weeks. Meanwhile, across the area, protest groups are pitching in to protect their local branches.

Brendan Nolan, spokesman for the Highgate Society, has urged residents to support their non-political petition and not allow political parties to take advantage of the issue.

In their fight to protect the High Street office they have been backed by Stanley Baxter, Victoria Wood, Tim Piggott-Smith, Jonathan Pryce, Terry Gilliam and Paul Nicholas.

"Hundreds of people have already signed and we are likely to do a public demonstration next week," Mr Nolan said. "We want to keep our post office."

The South End Green Association is hosting a public meeting on Tuesday at the Heath Library at 7.30pm with invitations going out to Postwatch, Post Office Ltd, the mayoral candidates and Glenda Jackson MP.

Chairwoman Pam Gilby said: "Our meeting will be an opportunity to hear what these various people have to say on the adverse effect to the community caused by closures. This is ripping out the heart of the community."

In Belsize Park the England's Lane office has had public support from the likes of fashion designer Sadie Frost and newsreader Fiona Bruce, who lives in Daleham Gardens.

Campaigner Alan Brownjohn said: "We are encouraged by the number of different people who have spoken up about it. The whole issue has really blown up and we are now part of a campaign by various organisations which is now bigger than us. They have got to listen."

In opposition to the closure of the Crowndale Road post office, more than 1,000 people have signed a petition. They are also planning a demo outside on Monday afternoon led by ward councilor Roger Robinson.

Sub-postmasters have reported that they have been offered compensation for loss of business of between £70,000 and £80,000.

There are 169 closures taking place across London to stem a £3million loss in profits.

A Post Office spokeswoman said: "The six-week public consultation period was set down by the UK Government and has also been agreed with independent consumer watchdog, Postwatch.

"Post Office Ltd is currently undertaking work to establish the future for the Post Office Network in London, including exploring the option to work with partners. Any partnership must form part of a commercially sustainable solution for the Post Office Network."