MEDSTEAD Post Office has re-opened at its new location at The Handy Store on High Street.

Described as “a modern local branch”, the relocated service will be provided from a low-screened counter, alongside the retail till at The Handy Store where the opening hours will be extended by an extra 33 hours per week, and mark the end of lunchtime closing, making for a more customer-friendly service.

The branch will open significantly earlier, at 7am, seven days per week, closing later at 6pm Monday to Friday, 4pm on Saturdays, and noon on Sundays.

The relocation is part of a major modernisation programme across the Post Office network designed to make it easier for customers to do business, through longer opening hours and modern, open-plan environments.

Medstead Post Office has been closed since March when the temporary postmaster had resigned ahead of the approved relocation to The Handy Store.

While apologising for any inconvenience caused by the temporary closure, Suzanne Richardson, regional network manager, said: “We are delighted to have a new permanent branch with significantly extended opening hours. This makes it easier for customers to get their cash, send and collect their mail and do their banking, because we know how important these services are to local residents.

“We are confident that this vibrant new-style post office at the heart of the local community will meet customer needs.”

And she added: “This modernisation is part of a major investment programme, the largest in the history of the Post Office, and will secure services for the future.”

The relocation of the Post Office service to The Handy Store was supported by a £7,000 grant from Hampshire County Council, and county councillor Mark Kemp-Gee (Alton Rural) and district councillor Deborah Brooke-Jackson, who is also chairman of Medstead Parish Council, joined store owners Raj and Priti Patel for the official re-opening.

Having operated for many years just a stone’s throw along the High Street at Medstead Hardware, following the closure at the end of February a public consultation found that a large number of people were calling for a new post office outlet at Lymington Barns to serve the growing populations of South Medstead and neighbouring Four Marks.

While the decision was taken by Post Office Services Ltd to keep this particular branch in the heart of the village where it will also serve the surrounding rural communities such as Bentworth, Bighton and Wield, the pressure for a Four Marks post office continues to mount.

While welcoming “the retention of this important infrastructure investment” in Medstead, Mr Kemp-Gee has confirmed that he will continue to press for a post office facility in the growing village of neighbouring Four Marks – an initiative supported by East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds, who has confirmed his backing for the call for a post office in Four Marks.