CAMPAIGNERS battling to save a postal delivery office from closure are celebrating victory after Royal Mail bosses made a U-turn decision to keep it open.

In February, residents and workers were incensed to find that Whitchurch's Church Street office was earmarked for closure as part of Royal Mail's cost-cutting plans.

But after a strongly-fought campaign by furious protesters - along with a 2,000-strong petition - a decision to keep it open was revealed yesterday morning by Royal Mail.

The closure would have meant all sorting and delivery duties moved to Basingstoke and would have left residents and businesses facing a 26-mile round trip to pick up a registered letter or undelivered parcel.

Alison Wall, a Whitchurch borough councillor, led the protests by collecting petition signatures calling on the Royal Mail to keep the office open.

She said: "We are absolutely delighted to have received this news. We have been ringing around to tell as many people as possible but there are so many.

"The support from the people of Whitchurch has been huge. Without them, saving the office would not have happened."

Cllr Wall believes the loss of the delivery office would have been a serious blow to Whitchurch - one that could have badly damaged the town.

She said: "Losing facilities like the delivery office is a definite threat to the existence of our rural communities, so it is very important that we keep hold of them."

Businesses will also feel the benefit from the delivery office staying open.

Cllr Wall said: "During the campaign, a dentist came up to me and told me how important it is for him to be able to get daily deliveries, because a lot of the time he has things delivered which he needs for the day.

"It would be impossible for him to go all the way to Basingstoke if he missed a delivery, because that would mean missing appointments. You cannot run a business that way.

"A mail order delivery company in the town was up in arms as well. The reason they set up in Whitchurch was because we have the delivery office here and they needed one nearby."

Last month, protesters staged a demonstration outside the office to campaign against the plan. They were joined by Sir George Young, MP for North West Hampshire.

Reacting to the U-turn, he said: "This is marvellous news for Whitchurch and my congratulations go out to everyone who was part of the protests.

"Many of the postmen in Whitchurch walk to work, sort the mail and then deliver it. If the move had gone ahead they would have had to drive to Basingstoke, sort the mail there and then come back - that would not make sense."

A statement released by Royal Mail said the move was ruled out following a consultation process with staff and customers.

This convinced the Royal Mail that closing the Whitchurch office would not deliver the benefits originally envisaged.

The 16 staff will now not be transferred to Basingstoke.

First published: Wednesday, May 11, 2005