A POST Office submaster says his store will go out of business if the counter is forced to shut next year.

The Cheney Manor Road Post Office is one of four in Swindon to be listed for closure, and shop owner Mohammed Choudhary says he does not know how long his business, which is also a local convenience store, will survive when the post office is removed.

Yesterday saw the start of a six-week consultation on the closure of 36 Post Office branches in Wiltshire and West Berkshire, with an additional 10 days added up to take the Christmas break into account.

Also in line for the axe are the desks at Toomers Garden Centre in Lydiard Millicent, the Lawn office in Guildford Avenue and the Westcott Place office in Faringdon Road.

Mr Choudhary has put £100,000 into his premises since taking them on four-and-a-half years ago, but does not see how he can continue without the busy post office adding to his trade.

"It is shocking news for me and for my branch," he said.

"We've never had problems, no complaints, and we've spent a lot of money to stay here.

"If the post office goes, the shop will go, as the post is the bigger business."

During a half-hour spell yesterday afternoon, the relief post master on duty did not stop serving customers, who were angered at the proposed closure.

Helen Scott and her toddler son Aidan make regular visits as she is an eBay seller aside from being a full-time mum.

And Aidan finds the shop fascinating and believes it is run by Postman Pat, one of his favourite TV characters.

Mrs Scott, of Devon Road, said: "I just think it's ridiculous.

"I'm usually here a couple of times a month for eBay and I get my child credits by cheque - especially with what happened to that recently.

" I'll have to go all the way into town just for the post office now.

"They are closing everything, and forcing you into town centre, but we're being told to save petrol at the same time."

Diana Hanford was visiting on behalf of her mum Edith May, who lives on Cheney Manor Road itself.

"Mum will be so upset," she said. "It's so friendly and they're helpful here. She's recently widowed and when she had to come and sort out the pension they were so kind to her.

"Places like this are what make a local community."

Tim Nickolls, network development manager for West Berkshire and Wiltshire, justified the decision to close 2,500 branches nationwide, including the 36 closures in his area.

He said: "Rural parts of the area, where 43 per cent of the population live, would be served by a total of 140 branches, 80 of which provide the only access to cash in their communities.

"Urban areas would be served by 94 branches including five Crown Post Offices.

"We believe these proposals offer the best prospect for a sustainable way forward."

Policians vow to battle the closures

POLITICIANS have vowed to fight against the decision, with petitions already in place at one Post Office earmarked for closure.

At Lawn Post Office in the One Stop store on Guildford Avenue, a petition by South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove is being gathered with customers in the shop being invited to sign up against the proposals.

Pem McGilligan, of Buckingham Road, said: "The lady here is lovely and I come in a couple of times a week.

"I find it very handy for getting money out, rather than using the hole in the wall as it's safer."

Ahead of yesterday's announcement, Mrs Snelgrove said: "These post offices are community assets.

"I will be helping local people put solid arguments to the Post Office about why they should stay open."

She added hope to those against the plans and said she had been told strong arguments would be considered and that nothing was set in stone.

In Lydiard Millicent, the Toomers Garden Centre Post Office has only just past its first anniversary at the end of last month, having opened three years after the closure of a branch in the village itself.

The manager was unable to comment due to a confidentiality agreement signed by her leaseholder for the operation.

But customer Joyce Chandler said: "It's a big shame if it goes.

"The one in the village was well used, but this is more out of the way especially if you don't have a car."

When the plan to shut 2,500 branches nationally was announced by the Government, Wiltshire County Council spearheaded a 13,000-name protest petition.

Now the council is preparing for battle and leader Jane Scott will meet Post Office managers today.

She said: "Village post offices play a key role in our rural communities and we are determined to do all we can to save them.

"We strongly disapprove of the plans and we believe the criteria used to measure the efficacy of these vital facilities are totally flawed.

"We are concerned that not only will the plans affect our rural communities but they may also hit the viability of other businesses."