DARLINGTON'S main Post Office is to close and reopen within WHSmith in the town within weeks, it has been confirmed.

The Crown Street post office was built as a sorting office extension to the former main post office on Northgate in 1912 and became the main post office in 1984.

Post Office bosses say the new open-plan branch, in WHSmith in the Cornmill Centre, will offer extended opening hours when it opens on September 19.

A spokesman said: "Following a period of local public consultation and review, we have made the decision to proceed with the proposal to relocate Darlington Post Office where it will be operated by WHSmith High Street Ltd."

The branch will include five serving positions and four self-service kiosks and it will be open seven days a week, from 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 3pm on Sundays.

Steve Blampied, Head of Post Office’s Directly Managed Branch Network, said that the change would help to ensure the branch is commercially viable into the future: “We are making sure we take the right action to sustain services for years to come.”

The current Darlington Post Office will close at 5.30pm on Wednesday, September 18.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said: "As soon as the Post Office said there was a consultation there was an inevitability that it was only a matter of time.

"Residents are worried about having enough space inside the new branch, because it can be congested in WHSmith.

"The Post Office have assured me they will make sure the site is accessible. Of course, it won't be as easy as getting to the Crown Street branch, where people can be dropped off at the door by car.

"I meet this decision with sadness but it is a reflection of the state of high streets.

"We have got to ensure that the Post Office sticks to the commitments it has made about accessibility."

The Post Office said WHSmith had experience of running Post Office branches successfully in the past, and that it would add a retail offer to the branch.