POST office services at Uplyme Filling Station will be discontinued in the New Year, with questions also looming over the future viability of the entire garage and village store.
The owner of Uplyme Filling Station, former parish councillor Dave Ostler, has confirmed that the post office service will cease to operate when the postmaster’s current lease comes to an end on January 14 2022, and has implied that the entire facility could also shut down.
Mr Ostler said that proposed changes to Uplyme Road, to provide access for a new primary school on land behind the village hall, had been an ongoing concern for several years and could pose a health and safety hazard for his business.
In a statement to the parish council, he said: “The post office will be discontinued at the petrol station as from January 14 2022.
“As I have been saying for a very long time, due to the road changes in the vicinity of the petrol station, it now puts the village shop/petrol station in jeopardy, the fundamental reason being health and safety.
“Therefore, as from January 14 2022 it does look as if the whole facility will close.
“I agree that it is a great shame that the village will lose amenity, however a business such as this needs support from all areas/departments for it to be sustainably continued.
“The safety concerns are now out of my hands, having, as you know, done my very best over the last four/five years to resolve the issues.”
Having expressed general support for a new school building for Mrs Ethelston’s Primary, Uplyme Parish Council objected to the plans due to the access and parking arrangements off Uplyme Road.
There were concerns that traffic could build up on the main road outside Uplyme Filling Station, causing a health and safety hazard and affecting the viability of the business.
Despite the concerns, planning permission was granted for the new school in October 2020.
At the time, development manager Chris Rose said: “It is suggested that this could result in the closure of the petrol station and associated post office and store leaving the village devoid of such facilities and it is argued that separate access/egress points serving the school would improve the flow of traffic and provide a more appropriate means of access.
“But Devon County Council, as the highways authority, has considered the application in detail and raised no objections to it, considering the single access/egress point to be the most appropriate option to serve the site and that sufficient information has been submitted to consider the traffic impacts.
“It is also considered that the proposal would be likely to reduce some of the off-site highway issues relating to the current school site which lacks parking provision.”
‘This place will die as a community’
The issue proved so divisive that district councillor Ian Thomas has said he will no longer attend Uplyme Parish Council meetings, having taken offence at a comment made by parish councillor Colin Pratt, who argued that the plans would result in the death or injury of a child.
Speaking at this week’s parish council meeting, Cllr Pratt said that district and county councillors and officers were on an “ego trip” in pushing ahead with the school plans.
He added: “If we lose the post office, shop and garage, this place will die as a community.”
Parish council chairman Chris James said “it was the last thing he wanted to happen”, but Mr Ostler was “convinced the new school will ruin his trade”.
Cllr James said he understood that Mr Ostler was concerned the business would become unviable and he would not be able to recuperate investment needed to keep it open and bring it up to modern standards.
Cllr Bill Trundley said the issue sounded more like a commercial decision rather than one of health and safety, and the council should not get involved until it had further details.
Alternative premises needed
Describing the post office as an essential community asset, Cllr James said the council needed to decide how it wanted to move forward – whether it should simply accept the closure or whether it wanted to find a way to continue providing the service within the village.
“I think it would be of great harm to us in the village not to have a post office, let alone a shop and garage,” he commented.
Cllr Pratt said a secure premises would be needed to maintain the service, but the village was limited in its options.
He said the only alternative place the post office service could be run from was a room in the village hall.
It was agreed to look into the issue further and to seek any suggestions or expressions of interest from members of the public may be interested in running a post office service.