FOR those with hope for a reversal of plans to franchise Andover’s Post Office, a borough boss has said the chance is “extremely unlikely”.

Test Valley Borough Council leader Councillor Phil North sat down with Post Office external affairs manager Ken Penton last month searching for answers in the wake of concerns over the proposed changes to the town centre facility.

The Andover Bridge Street branch is one of 40 sites planned to be franchised into WHSmith stores with a public consultation due in the New Year, when a moving date is also likely to be announced.

Accessibility was a key part of the talks as fears have been voiced for elderly customers, or those with disabilities, to be able to go upstairs in the WHSmith High Street shop.

Cllr North said: “We discussed the fact that there was currently no independent customer lift and I told him it would be a disaster if it was located upstairs.

“Mr Penton took this on board but was clear, despite being pressed, that he couldn’t give any guarantees on this matter.

“I need to be really clear here as I don’t want to scaremonger – that just because he couldn’t give assurances, it doesn’t automatically mean it will be upstairs. I think that from our conversation that is unlikely – and to be fair to Mr Penton he didn’t want to give me a guarantee that he had no control over.”

A drop-off and pick-up location at the back of Waterloo Court is being looked at by highways officers to buffer against extra difficulties that could come for less-mobile service users.

The current seven members of staff at the Bridge Street branch, Cllr North was told, have all been offered an employment transfer on the same terms as they are now, and will continue to have access to the Post Office’s training network.

Cllr North added: “I was clear that residents expect to see the same level of services that are provided in the Bridge Street branch also provided when it relocates to the High Street.

“He mentioned that a statement on service levels will be made with the wider announcement in the new year.”

Remaining issues such as opening hours will be announced when the consultation goes live.

The consultation will run for a six-week period and there will also be a four-hour drop-in session for the public to ask questions they may have.