DARLINGTON looks likely to become the latest town to have its post office moved into a commercial retail premises – as in Northallerton, it is planned to go into WH Smith.

In both towns, the offices appear busy enough to survive, even with the automated tills in Darlington which seem to be designed to frustrate customers. However, retail is changing and letters are declining.

So the move into WH Smith could be seen as positive. It shows the post office is committed to maintaining a local branch, and it is a boost for WH Smith which, as with all high street chains, needs all the help it can get.

While there are positives, the devil is often in the detail, and the Northallerton consultation has revealed concerns about whether the post office can be shoe-horned into a small shop. That, though, cannot be said of the oceans of space in Darlington’s Cornmill Centre.

Even if both moves go happily ahead, the problems do not end: what becomes of the vacated buildings? They were not designed as brash retail premises, so do our local authorities and high street managers have action plans to speed up their conversions, presumably into residential accommodation?

This question is particularly pressing in Darlington where large chunks of the northern town centre are falling empty. It cannot be left to private developers to piecemeal change the nature of the town, with some buildings being left empty and desolate for years, bringing down the tone for those struggling for survival around them.