THE Royal Mail has been branded "inaccessible and incompetent" after residents in a rural village were left with no post box.

The only post box in Edmundbyers, County Durham, has been painted black and sealed shut – to the surprise of villagers.

The post box was built into the wall of the village post office, which closed in 1999.

It remained in place when the building became a shop, but now the box has been sealed for good.

A spokesperson for the Royal Mail said: “This post box has been taken out of service following a request from the owner of the private property on which it was located.

"We are legally obliged to remove or seal post boxes on private property if we are requested to do so.

“We are looking to install a replacement post box as close to the location of the previous box as possible and as quickly as we are able.

"The timescale for installing a new post box is dependent on identifying a suitable location and obtaining the appropriate external approvals.”

Many residents are confused over why they were not notified of the closure or why a new one was not installed before the present one was sealed.

Residents of the remote village, near Derwent Reservoir, now have to travel two miles to the neighbouring hamlet of Ruffside or make a five mile trip to Blanchland.

There are only two buses a day into Blanchland from Edmundbyers.

One villager said: “There are a lot of elderly people in the village who use it to send birthday and Christmas cards – the postman was as confused as we were.”

Another resident added: “It’s a great loss for the village and this is already a deprived area.

"We are not a good with emails, some of us still write letters.”

There is also a concern that the closure could affect people who stay in a nearly caravan site.

Durham County Councillor John Shuttleworth said: “Royal Mail have a duty to provide a postal facility in Edmundbyers and to consult residents about any changes they may wish to make.

"This is a remote village needing this service”

He added: “Never in 22 years have I had a case like this – to remove a service without consultation or notification is a disgrace.

"The older people need a post box and I would like Royal Mail to install one by the end of the week.”

Residents have suggested the best place for the new box is on the village green, or near the Punch Bowl Pub.

The owner of the property, who also runs the post office in Blanchland, Northumberland, has been contacted by The Northern Echo for a comment.