DARLINGTON looks likely to become the latest town in our area 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, on the face of it, the post offices appear to be busy enough to survive, even with the automated tills in Darlington which seem to be designed to frustrate casual customers. However, we must accept the evidence of changing retail climate and the decline of the posted letter.

So the move into WH Smith could be seen as positive. It is welcome that the post office is committed enough to our towns to work out how it can maintain a local branch, and it is a boost for WH Smith which, as with all high street chains, must have question marks hanging over its future.

While there are positives, the devil is often in the detail, and the Northallerton public consultation has revealed real 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.

Let's assume both moves go happily ahead, but the problems do not end: what becomes of the vacated buildings? Neither were 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?