A new layby has been constructed in the heart of Slaley in Northumberland to allow a mobile post office to safely park and serve the community.
Slaley villagers have not had access to reliable post office services since 2009 when their local branch was closed and replaced with mobile provision. The village was visited by a post office van, but numerous problems came as part and parcel of that service.
To deliver all the services of a standard post office, the van needed access to a reliable mobile communications signal – a persistent problem in rural Northumberland villages like Slaley.
Pat Wilson, Slaley Parish Clerk, said: “The van would drive up and down the village for hours in a vain attempt to get a signal. At one point, it even tried plugging in to different people’s telephone lines to get a connection. Between the lack of signal and available parking spaces in the village, there was never a reliable place to use the post office.”
BT eventually installed a junction box beside the Parks Side bungalows at the centre of the village. This gave the van the reliable communications link it needed to provide its services, but cables had to be trailed across a public footpath to reach the parked post office on the road.
Pat Wilson saw the potential hazards and contacted Isos Housing to ask if the land in front of the junction box could be leased. This would keep the footpath safe and free of obstruction, and give the van a reliable place to park once and for all.
Isos and Slaley Parish Council split the cost of constructing a layby for the van equally, each contributing £7,000 towards the project, and the layby was swiftly completed.
Kath Heard, asset manager at Isos Housing, said: “We are very pleased with how the new layby at Slaley has turned out. Works like these seem small, but they can play a big role in community life. Everyone at Slaley, and even some of the neighbouring villages, can now reliably use the post office services that many of us take for granted.”
Pat Wilson said: “It feels great to finally have a safe and convenient way to use the mobile post office. The van will be getting a lot of use in the lead up the Christmas, so we can rest a lot easier knowing that elderly residents don’t have to navigate precarious cables and slippery footpaths.”