WATCHET has its Post Office back after a three-month closure thanks to an entrepreneur who has made the bold move to re-open the Swain Street facility as a go-it-alone independent business without the backing of Post Office Ltd.

The shop-owner, who asked not to be named for personal reasons, told the Free Press: “I want everybody to know that Watchet post office services are back and people can stop having to trek to Minehead or Williton to buy stamps or pay bills as they have been forced to do.”

Using services from Royal Mail and other online providers, the new business, now known as The Old Post Office General Stores, has put in place a facility to cater for all local needs apart from handing cash, although the proprietor hopes to eventually remedy this.

Watchet Post Office closed in September after months of uncertainty, when Emily and Mark Richards-Littlefield gave up running their businesses in Watchet and Alcombe.

The shop owner told the Free Press: “The truth is that Post Office Ltd did not want a Post Office in Watchet and closing it saved them at least £13,000 a year.

“Now the town has got its Post Office back, which will make life easier for a lot of people, particularly those who do not drive or use computers.”

When the Post Office closed in September, a Post Office Ltd spokesperson said: “The Watchet branch closed due to the resignation of the postmaster.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused by these unplanned closures.”

The new go-it-alone venture relies largely on Royal Mail, now a private company which provides stamps and delivers letters and parcels.

The present shop owner, who took over in May and also runs it as a general store, said he applied to become Watchet’s next postmaster but claimed that Post Office Ltd did not process his application and removed it from its website.

“When the Post Office closed, Post Office Ltd removed all the equipment and told me it would cost between £18-22,000 to re-install it,” he said.

“It was then that I started looking for alternatives.

“A small Post Office runs at a loss.

“It costs around £26,000 a year to operate and Post Office Ltd pays around £13,000.

“Small general stores with Post Offices attached usually run on quite small margins and you would have to sell about £50-£60,000 worth of stock to make up the shortfall.

“Little village shops in this area simply do not have that kind of turnover, which is why so many have closed recently because they cannot take the losses that Post Office Ltd imposes on them.

“I decided to bring all the postal services back to the town without involving Post Office Ltd, who simply would not play ball.

“On the other hand, Royal Mail understands that Post Offices are a main outlet for them.

“We are taking on a service called ‘Royal Mail drop and go’ and Royal Mail collections continue as before.

“I only took on the shop so that the town would not lose its Post Office.

“The only thing we do not do at the moment is act like a bank, but we have technology that can handle financial transactions and bill-paying.

“We are providing a very efficient service and there will be more developments in the future.

“For instance, today we have been sending parcels to Australia and paying people’s gas bills.

“Watchet has got its Post Office back despite Post Office Ltd.

“The main street was never the same without it.”