The Brooke Road sorting office in Clapton. Photograph: Google Streetview

Both Labour and Conservative councillors last night called on Royal Mail to keep the under-threat sorting office on Brooke Road open.

A petition seeking to prevent residents having to potentially spend hours travelling to Leyton to reclaim their packages has garnered almost 3,000  signatures by word-of-mouth in just a few weeks.

Campaigner Susan Downing last night warned of the impact the closure of the office could have on the borough’s most vulnerable, with both Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville and Conservative Cllr Simche Steinberger joining residents in their hope for the building, dubbed an “E5 icon” at the meeting, to remain in the community.

Downing said: “With the closure of Brooke Road office, local residents will be expected to travel to the Leyton office to collect their parcels and make enquiries. This is an utterly ridiculous journey prospect. Leyton is not an easy place to get to from Hackney – a one-hour round trip from our area outside of peak times for those with a car and for bus users, so between 90 minutes and two hours for a round trip.

“Bus services are dwindling, there are less seats available due to distancing measures, and access roads between Clapton and Leyton are already clogged with barely moving traffic due to road access restrictions. We are repeatedly advised to travel for essential reasons only, to drive less to cut pollution and expected to stay local. Brooke Road provides a convenient easy access service in the heart of our community, yet we will be expected to make lengthy and out of the way journeys for a parcel or an enquiry.

“Collecting a package from Brooke Road can be achieved when dropping the kids off at nursery or popping out for groceries. It has a large indoor waiting area and wide street level entrance, and accommodates all disabilities. Collecting from Leyton will be out of the reach of many and very time-consuming and stressful for everybody else.”

Downing added that the proposed mid-November closure date “could not come at a worse time” with increased lockdown movement restrictions looming as coronavirus cases rise.

The campaigner concluded: “Royal Mail has already today reported a vast increase in parcel volume since lockdown began, yet they intend to remove a local service that ensures these packages can be accessed by local recipients.

“Brooke Road is a vital piece of the local community infrastructure, it is well-used and much-valued, and we need it to continue being a community service.”

Councillors highlighted the disproportionate impact that the closure of the office will have on specific sectors of the community, with mayoral adviser for older people Cllr Yvonne Maxwell aiming to join the members of the community who have already written to interim Royal Mail chief executive Stuart Simpson with her own letter raising concerns as to how the closure would affect elderly residents cut off by the digital divide.

The petition to save Brooke Road, which attracted 2,000 signatures in its first three days, acknowledges that Royal Mail have said that parcels can be left with neighours or deliveries rescheduled, but have argued that for many, these options will not be possible.

Cllr Margaret Gordon pointed out that Lathams Yard estate residents affected by a fire a year ago are still using Brooke Road for all their post, and that those who live in flats will have a much harder time retrieving parcels than those who live in street properties.

It is understood the Town Hall would not be able to take on the sorting office itself and fund it to keep it going, with Cllr Ian Rathbone, who presented Downing’s deputation, telling those assembled that the office has served Clapton since 1892.

Mayor Glanville revealed that he has also written his own letter to Royal Mail but has not yet received a reply, going on to voice his concerns for the future of the office’s staff.

The Hackney Mayor said: “The first I heard about this campaign was not through a formal consultation from Royal Mail, it was residents contacting me after midnight at the start of October asking if I knew about this. It is so true that the petition spread by word-of-mouth, and a huge testament to those in E5 and Clapton that it has reached almost 3,000 people. Hopefully now it will go even further and people will write to the chief executive.

“This sorting office is at the heart of the community. It is a bit of an E5 icon, it’s where people come to meet, it is embedded in the local community and it is accessible. As much as we love our neighbours in Waltham Forest, not many of us use Waltham Forest facilities on a day-to-day basis. It’s counter to most of the journeys that people take. It would be ill-judged and counterproductive at the best of times, but with people increasingly reliant on letters and parcels, it is a really important part of what residents need in that community.

“It will also be serving a myriad of smaller businesses who are just keeping basis by having a local sorting office in their community. For all of them to be expected to go to Leyton is completely unacceptable.

“I hope they start to listen. We’ve got a brief extension to November, and the minimum we can expect is moving these changes beyond the immediate crisis and allowing a proper engagement exercise to continue. All of us as councillors are united.”

You can find out more and sign the petition here

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