We held a very productive meeting with representatives from the Post Office today discussing the future of Launceston Post Office.
The PO explained that they had not had a permanent tenant for a number of years and the landlord wanted a long term deal. The PO did not feel this was possible at the moment and so they were given notice to leave the premises by the end of May.
The only application up until three weeks ago came from the person who wanted to move the PO to Newport. Three weeks ago another applicant came forward with the desire to keep the business in town. Both of these applicants have been interviewed today.
The Cornwall councillors - Sasha Gillard-Loft, Phil Parsons and myself, together with the Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce - all expressed the strong desire to keep the PO in town. Whilst we do not criticise the person who wants to move the Post Office to Newport, we all feel that it would be better for the town as a whole if it remains in the town centre. Many shops gain a trade boost from people visiting the Post Office and would suffer if it moved to Newport. Whilst Newport has parking, the venue is almost inaccesible for pedestrians and has little public transport. And, whilst it is a bit more convenient for those in the Ridgegrove and St Stephens end of town, that does not make up for the damage it would do to the town centre.
The Post Office told us that their wish was for the venue to stay in the town centre. We told them that, since the landlord had indicated that he would allow a lower rent and a rent holiday and Cornwall Council would provide between 50% and 100% rate relief, there were a number of other people who would be interested in applying to run a town centre post office if the current applicant did not meet the criteria.
We will not find out for another 48 hours or so what the outcome of today's interviews is, but I hope that we will hear then that the Post Office is staying in the town centre or, at least, that other town centre applications are being invited.
Unfortunately, it appears that the local papers said that there would be a public meeting at 4pm on the issue. This was never planned but the three Cornwall Councillors stayed behind after our meeting with the Post Office to chat to members of the public and press who turned up to tell them what had been discussed. I hope everyone understood that it was not our fault that a meeting was wrongly advertised and they seemed to go away, as we did, with a bit more hope than before.