AS PROTESTS mount in communities across the region at plans for local post office closures, North Devon and Torridge District Councils are looking at ways to challenge or mitigate the proposals to close eight local post offices and replace another 13 with

AS PROTESTS mount in communities across the region at plans for local post office closures, North Devon and Torridge District Councils are looking at ways to challenge or mitigate the proposals to close eight local post offices and replace another 13 with "outreach" services.

North Devon's executive was last night (Tuesday) being recommended to challenge the closures with a view to retaining as many facilities as possible.

Other suggestions aimed at softening the blow were to lobby the Post Office to provide a mobile service for Goodleigh, reconfigure the proposed mobile services for West Buckland and Bishops Nympton in line with the bus services and provide an improved mobile service for West Down.The council was also being asked to consider providing business support to those who would have a mobile facility and, with North Devon Plus, arranging meetings with proprietors to discuss alternative methods of improving business.

Torridge councillors have written to the Prime Minister voicing their concerns.Councillor Chris Leather, Orchard Hill, said: "Torridge District Council is wholeheartedly opposed to the closure of our rural post offices and is working closely in partnership with Devon County and all the other district councils to object to the closure programme."

Councillor Marion Perkin, Broadheath, has attended meetings with local residents to show her support for their plight. "Torridge is unequivocal in its support for local residents. It's vital that our rural post offices remain open. They are the very life-blood of rural communities," she said.

North Devon MP Nick Harvey has described the proposed changes as "a real blow to North Devon."He said loss of post offices could also cost some communities their shops and that there was concern for people without transport.He is helping several villages and is very willing to help anyone else organising community campaigns.

On Torridgeside, hundreds of local residents turned out to pledge support for Buckland Brewer Post Office, threatened with closure just 20 months after it was set up with the aid of a £27,000 grant.Lib Dem PPC and Torridge councillor Adam Symons, who chaired the meeting, said: "What was quite clear ... is that the Post Office Ltd. does not understand the importance of Buckland Brewer Post Office to both residents and local businesses and that they have not taken into account lack of public transport, deprivation rates and access to other post offices."

Public meetings in Ashwater and Shebbear have been chaired by Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox who said: "I am getting to all the post offices and as many of the meetings as I can and am gathering information for the purpose of making individual representations to the Post Office for each of the threatened branches. This is pretty intensive activity to see if we can save as many post offices as we can."

Public consultation runs until June 30. To give your views about the future of the postal services, write to Tim Nickolls, Network Development Manager, c/o National Consultation Team, FREEPOST CONSULTATION TEAM. Email: consultation@ postoffice.co.ukHelpline: 0845722 33 44

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BISHOPS Nympton residents turned out in force on Saturday to catch the bus into South Molton.

Around 170 people queued to board the 16-seater! It was their way of highlighting that the suggestion they do this if their post office is replaced by an eight-hours-a-week mobile service, is impractical.

Among those present was local celebrity and TV star Johnny Kingdom and North Devon MP Nick Harvey.

Bishops Nympton villagers will protest en masse again tomorrow (Thursday) when they take their cars into South Molton to demonstrate how impractical it is to park, unload elderly or infirm passengers and queue at the Post Office counter.

On June 25 they will go to London to meet Nick Harvey and hand in a petition to No 10.

Parish council vice-chairman Ian Cowling said: "The choice of Bishops Nympton is illogical and will do great damage to our village and surrounding communities."