A RETIRED sub-postmaster has been given the go ahead to return the part of his home used as Gargrave Post Office back to residential use - leaving the village without a post office.

Nigel Taylor told Craven District Council’s planning committee he and the Post Office had tried for several years to get someone to take over the business.

The Post Office's new ‘network transformation programme’ from around 2013, meant running the business on its own was not viable and the only way forward was for it to be run alongside another retail outlet, such as when Skipton Middletown post office went into the Spar and Hellifield’s into a clothes shop, he said.

“Under the rules of the network transformation programme, my sub-post office contract could not be transferred to a new operator, and there outlined the problem - I could not transfer my contract to a new operator. They had to go onto a new local contract, and a much reduced salary,” he said.

Mr Taylor, who ran the post office from a room in his house on Gargrave High Street, with a small retail space, said having decided to sell the business in 2010, after running it for 16 years, he took it off the market.

“The only option then was to relocate to another shop in the village. Over the next seven years, the Post Office and myself tried to relocate, but none of the businesses in Gargrave wished to take it on. It was very much in my interest to get someone to take it on, because under the new rules of network transformation had it been successful, I would have received in the region of £50,000, but as it is, we got nothing.”

The post office in Gargrave closed in March, when Mr and Mrs Taylor retired after 27 years. The local contract to run the business was then advertised on the Post Office website for a salary between £5,251 and £5,834 per annum.

Mr Taylor added: “You cannot make a business from that. That is why the post office was not viable on those premises as a stand-a-lone business, it had to move into an existing retail outlet.

“I did everything I could to prevent the closure, the only option would have been to carry on indefinitely.”

Councillors were told village post offices were classed as a community facility and proposals for change of use had to be supported with evidence that efforts had been made to market the business and find an alternative location. That had been proved, and so the recommendation was to approve the application. There had been an expression of interest from someone in High Street, but that was still to be decided.

Gargrave ward councillor Alan Sutcliffe, who moved approval of the application, said it was a sorry tale and described it as a ‘severe blow’ for Gargrave which meant many residents would now have to travel to Hellifield or Skipton for the nearest post office.

“It seems there is nothing we can do about it. We do have to accept it is a severe blow to Gargrave. A lot of elderly residents now have to go to Hellifield, six miles away, or to Skipton, which is seven miles away.

“Every time a post master retires in a rural location, the facility will disappear unless it can be absorbed into another viable business in the village.”

Cllr Carl Lis said it was something that was happening all over Craven.

“Every single village in our community is going to come up against this. As the existing post master decides to retire the Post Office will impose this new set up which reduces the amount of money that can be earned from it to make it completely and totally unviable. The reality is, they are all going to close.”

Cllr Andy Brown said: “This is a direct result of the privatisation of a service that is supposed to be for the community. This is inappropriate privatisation and that is why communities all over the country are suffering.”

Cllr Stephen Place said when he had run a shop in Sutton-in-Craven he had been approached by the Post Office to take on the business after the village’s former post office closed.

“The Post Office came to see me as a nearby shop as they had tried with all the other small shops in Sutton and asked us to take on the franchise.

“The salary I believe had been £32,000; I was offered £5,820. It was going to cost me a minimum £12,000 per to take the post office into my shop.

Cllr Place said he would have had to have regular training and refresher courses in Leeds and would have had to take two more members of staff, but despite the financial loss ‘his heart ruled his head’ and he decided to to take it on.

“Fortunately, I did not have to; I went through some serious illness which meant I had to sell my business quickly at a huge discount to get the heck out of it. I have every sympathy with the applicant,” he said.

On its website, the Post Office says it is looking for a successful retailer in Gargrave to incorporate a Post Office Local into its existing or proposed business. The deadline for applications is February 25, 2022 and is it offering a fee in the range of £5,251 to £5,834 per annum.

It says it is looking for "entrepreneurs, who are community focused and keen to make a positive social contribution, self-motivated and sales-focused and keen to meet customers’ needs forward thinking and innovative and able to benefit from the extra footfall a Post Office will bring."

It adds a Post Office is a 'great fit in local convenience stores and newsagents', while there are also successful post offices in places including gift shops, petrol stations, pubs and garden centres.