From the ‘Farmers Guardian’

If ever you were in doubt as to the service that local shops provide, then this article might go someway to assuaging those doubts.  Well done the team.

Backbone of Britain: Rural post offices offer lifeline to local communities

The role of rural Post Offices has never been so important and one family farm has created a vital service hub for its local community. Alex Black finds out more.

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Rural Post Offices are a vital lifeline to local communities #ProudToFarm

Rural Post Offices are regarded as part of the fabric of community life; a much needed service to help residents go about their everyday life. With the ongoing closures of rural banks across the country, local businesses and dwellers have come to heavily rely on their local Post Office and their future is stronger than ever. In December last year, the Government announced the future of rural Post Offices would be safeguarded thanks to a £160 million fund to protect village branches from closure. Another £210m will be spent modernising about 11,600 branches across the country over the next three years, as the network appeared to be at its most stable in many years.

According to Citizens Advice, more than half of the UK’s Post Offices are located in rural areas, with customers using the service significantly more often than their urban counterparts, and the more rural the area, the more important its role. These statistics were even higher in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with more than 70 per cent of Welsh Post Offices serving rural areas. There are no hard or fast rules as to how rural Post Offices operate within a local community and they can range from a fully functional outlet to a modest counter in a farm shop or mobile van touring around the community.

In Utkinton, Cheshire, Rose Farm Shop provides a Post Office alongside its farm shop, butchers and cafe, bridging the gap by offering a multi-faceted platform of services. Pig and beef farmer John Johnson opened the farm shop 21 years ago, after the people running the local village shop which housed the Post Office were looking to retire. John took over the village shop and Post Office before moving to the new site, but faced a raft of planning challenges after initially approaching the council.

Understanding the importance of the service, John’s determination and patience eventually paid dividends.

He says: “We had support from the local community and eventually received permission to open.”

Community is definitely the buzzword when it comes to the farm shop and Post Office and Stanley Downham, who was chairman of the parish council at the time, is now a loyal customer.

He says: “We had an awful job to persuade them the village needed a Post Office and that it was a viable proposition.

“We got the planning committee out to have a look at the site and put a lot of pressure on. Today, the Post Office is increasingly vital and a facility for the whole community, especially with more banks closing.”

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