A PARISH Council says it is in a “long-running battle” with Royal Mail after the company removed its central village postbox.
Calstock Parish Councillor Alastair Tinto says that the box on Fore Street, which had the village’s only afternoon collection, was removed without warning in September 2022.
It was only after a few days of enquiries that the Council found out that Royal Mail considered the box to be “too dangerous and beyond repair”.
They were told that the box would be replaced within 25 weeks.
Work has been going on to refurbish the building on Fore Street where the box was located, but this shouldn’t have made any difference to the mail, says Councillor Tinto.
“The owner of the former Levines shop has taken down the frontage and for the time being he has put up some orange boarding.
“In March 2021, when there was a cement mixer by the postbox, Royal Mail stopped collecting for a few days because they said the postman couldn’t get to it. We negotiated with the owner that his workers wouldn’t obstruct the post and it was amicably resolved: collections restarted within a few days.
“No-one in the community thought that the postbox was dangerous. We reckon that Royal Mail didn’t like having to collect it from there.
“But not only was this our postbox in the centre of the village: it had the only afternoon collection and it was also our priority box.”
One local businesswoman, artist Mariam Gupta, described the impact on her trade.
“I’ve got an online business and I need an afternoon collection to get my letters out promptly,” she said.
“I feel Royal Mail is not concerned about the public: it’s all about making money.”
Meanwhile, Calstock resident and Cornwall College lecturer Pamela Atkin said: “I work with people with mental health problems. I have spoken to numerous people whose anxiety means they can’t use public transport so they can’t get out of the village. It’s a big thing to use a letterbox. Getting post and being able to send things is really important. Not being able to access a postbox just makes their anxieties worse.”
Royal Mail has declined to collect in the afternoons from either of Calstock’s other postboxes, telling the Council that “people who can’t access these can pass their stamped post to the postman or woman when they’re out doing their delivery round”.
In a letter sent in December 2022 to Councillor Tinto, senior public affairs manager for Royal Mail Group Michael Hogg has apologised to the Council for the inconvenience of losing the box and the delay in responding to the Council’s enquiry.
He writes: “Our regulator Ofcom requires Royal Mail to ensure that 98% of households should be within half a mile of a postbox. There are two postboxes in close proximity to Fore Street in Calstock: one on the junction of Rowse Gardens and Church Hill, approximately 130 Metres away, and one on Harewood Road approximately 250 metres away.
“The nearest postbox with a later collection time is at Cotehele House, 0.83 miles away, and the nearest priority box is at Bere Alston, 1.3 miles away.
“Having taken into account all the relevant factors, including the balance of economy against service provision, I am sorry to advise that we are unable to temporarily designate a nearby postbox with a later collection time.”
But Councillor Tinto feels that Royal Mail’s response and the lack of forewarning shows that the company “has little concern for its customers, and little understanding or care about the geography of this part of Cornwall”.
“Cotehele is a car drive of over 10 minutes and for the many people without cars it is a 30-minute walk up a steep, rocky track. Getting to Bere Alston is a 20-minute drive across the Tamar. There is a train from Calstock to Bere Alston but this only runs every two hours.”
Royal Mail told the Council in December it intended to install a new postbox outside Calstock Village Hall on The Quay and that this would be done within 12-18 weeks.
But with this deadline fast arriving, the Council, which owns the land, says it has so far had no approach from Royal Mail about these plans.