Bridport & West Dorset News, Views, Videos & Curiosities

People power gets Post Office back

WHAT’S 40 minutes when you’ve waited more than two years? Broadwindsor’s new Post Office service opened for business at 10am prompt, but a technical hitch meant no transactions could actually be carried out until 10.40am. However, delay merely heightened excitement in The Comrades Hall. At one point there were probably about 40 people there; this pictures shows just some of them. And their verdict when things did get going was unanimous: “It’s wonderful!”

Technical hitches sorted out, and the British do what they still do in places like Broadwindsor: they form a queue.

VILLAGERS in West Dorset today saw Post Office services brought back to their community after an absence of more than two years.

Broadwindsor has not had a Post Office since December 2007, and the reintroduction of services now is mostly down to members of the local Women’s Institute.

Ruth Yarde of Broadwindsor WI said: “I missed it dreafully. I was very passionate about us having a Post Office again because a lot of people were having to travel elsewhere. But this brings people together. It’s a part of the community and living in a rural area that’s we want – that sense of community.

“I’m feeling very excited and positive, and it’s now down to the village and the surrounding areas to use it well.”

Apart from limited opening hours, there are few obstacles to the new PO outreach service in The Comrades Hall being used. Fellow WI campaigner Jean Frampton said: “There’s a mini-parking area and there’s easy access for people to walk because it’s flat.”

Between them, Mrs Yarde and Mrs Frampton probably put about 200 hours of effort into getting services reinstated.

One villager, who asked not to be named, praised the two women: “They worked tirelessly to find a solution, holding meetings with Oliver Letwin [West Dorset MP] and then later our local district councillor Jacqui Sewell.

“For some time they felt they were banging their heads against a brick wall. If it had not been for their terrier-like persistence, we would not be in the position we are now.

“It really was people power.

“The village hall committee is letting the parish council have the hall for a reduced fee and then the parish council is claiming it back through grant funding which has come via West Dorset District Council and Dorset Community Action.

“The village hall committee is also meeting the cost of a phone line in the hall.”

Broadwindsor parish council chairman Peter Hardwill said: “The benefit for the whole community of having this facility will be in bringing people out, meeting each other, talking.”   

Broadwindsor resident Wendy Shields agreed: “It’s absolutely marvellous.”

A full range of services will now be offered between 10am and 12.30am every Tuesday and Friday in the Comrades Hall. The new outreach service will be run from Bridport Post Office. Sub Postmaster Graham Burridge says he will be offering everything that the former Post Office offered and more, including postage, wrapping materials, financial services, foreign currency and a selection of stationery.

Tuesays and Fridays have been chosen because on those days The Comrades Hall is used by various groups. Coffee mornings are also planned and the local Police Community Support Officer will be holding his monthly surgeries at the hall to coincide with the Post Office service. The mobile library visits Broadwindsor every other Friday morning in the Square meaning that people using the library can then just walk up to the hall to use the Post Office services.

West Dorset District Council Leader Robert Gould said: “The situation in Broadwindsor has been less than ideal for the past two years. Some people without cars have had to go to Beaminster on the bus to visit the Post Office and there can be a wait of up to three hours for the return bus. I’m so pleased with what we have all achieved.”

Broadwindsor has shown how determination and joined up thinking can benefit local communities, said Cllr Gould.

Note: They might need the same sort of qualities in Portesham because the Dorset Echo today has a story saying the Post Office there may soon be closed, as the couple in charge at the moment are retiring.