POST Office bosses have defended plans to axe nine branches in and around Huddersfield.

The company yesterday published proposals to shut offices in Birchencliffe, Birkby, Holmbridge, Leeds Road, Lockwood, Longroyd Bridge, Oakes, Quarmby and Wooldale.

But it said more than 99% of people would see either no change to the branch they currently use or would be within a mile of an alternative branch.

Customers now have seven weeks to comment on the plans.

Adrian Wales, Post Office Ltd’s network development manager for the North East, said: “Taking the decision to close any Post Office branch is always very difficult and we know it will cause concern to many of our customers.

“We want to ensure that everyone who uses, relies on, or has any concern with Post Office services is both fully aware of the proposed changes and able to give views on them.

“Post Office Ltd’s aim is to continue to provide essential services and support retail businesses and the local economy in as many communities as possible.

He added: “We believe these proposals offer the best prospect for a sustainable way forward for Post Office services in this area.”

Last year the Government told Post Office Ltd it should close up to 2,500 branches to address falling business and a big drop in customer numbers.

Consumer watchdog Postwatch is urging people to take part in the consultation on the latest closure proposals before the September 22 deadline.

Northern England chairman Judith Donovan CBE said: “Post office closures are not good news for customers, but the Government has decided that a significant number are necessary to help put in place a sustainable network for the long term.

“Postwatch accepts the rationale for change.

“It is important that this happens in a way that minimises customer inconvenience and confusion.

“That means Post Office Ltd’s decisions must be sensible and public consultation meaningful. Our priority is to ensure this is the case.

“Local information will be vital so that changes in the post office network take proper account of the particular needs and circumstances of communities.”

Pat McFadden, the minister for employment relations and postal affairs, said the internet had affected how many people used post office services.

She added: “The future for the Post Office network cannot be about turning the clock back and wishing away the changes in technology and communications that have taken place in recent years – changes that most of us have taken part in, in one way or another.

“It must be about developing new products and services which attract custom and about ensuring the viability of the network which remains after the current closures.”

For more information on the proposals visit, e-mail consultation@ or call 08457 223344.