PETERSFIELD'S Post Office in The Square is set to close, it was announced this week.

The shock news was confirmed on Tuesday morning by the Post Office that its busy town centre branch would be closing – one of 37 branches suffering such a fate.

Roger Gale, sales and trade marketing director for Post Office Ltd, said: “We’re committed to maintaining the Post Office’s special place on the high street and the changes we are making underpin our continued commitment to give communities in every part of the country access to essential services.

“The Post Office’s network of more than 11,600 branches is easily the largest in the UK, with 17 million customer visits per week. The vast majority of these branches are run with partners, and in the locations announced today we believe this will also be a more sustainable approach for the long term.

“With consumer habits changing, and the high cost of maintaining premises in prime high street locations, franchising helps us to keep services where our customers want and need them.”

But the unexpected closure isn’t likely to happen for about six months, according to a Post Office spokesman.

Although a final decision hasn’t yet been made, the Post Office can’t make a living from the three-storey building on The Square – or 36 other similar post office branches, the spokesman added.

“We looked at the demographics of the towns, the costs of maintaining the properties and their financial viability, and although I can’t be specific about Petersfield, all 37 are either losing money, or will do in future, they aren’t sustainable.

“We will take time to identify the right partners over the coming months and all proposals will be subject to a six-week local consultation,” the spokesman added.

But the initial decision has still been met with shock, anger, dismay and sadness by shoppers in Petersfield.

They all saw it as a much-loved and well-used institution and an important part of the town’s history, which dates back almost a century.

It was also seen as a cynical, money-making move which was damaging Petersfield as a community.

Petersfield resident James Budden, who was chanting “don’t close our Post Office” outside the three-storey building on the edge of The Square, said: “I think it’s terrible. It’s part of the social fabric of the town. I am going to complain to the Post Office.

“I have been coming here since I was a lad 60 years ago and I rely on it for things like my state pension every week.”

Mark Hanks, also from Petersfield, whose wife used to work on the counter, said: “This post office is part of our heritage. We’ve had a post office here for years. It’s totally unnecessary to close it. It’s all about profit only but it should be a service.”

Kirsty Maccallum, who was out shopping with her two-year-old son Charlie Brown, is assistant manager, about to become manager, at The George pub, next door to the condemned post office.

“It’s a real shame. It’s a local institution and closing it will make it much harder for people. I use it all the time as I have family all over the world.

“It’s a lovely building too,” she said.

Disbelief was the reaction of Percy Critchett, who is from Portsmouth but regularly visits Petersfield.

“It’s so much a part of Petersfield. When you think of Petersfield your image is of the post office in The Square. It’s at the heart of the town and it will really suffer if it disappears.

“The Post Office is just trying to make more money, which is a disease running through our society. I’m really peeved.”