A controversial new pharmacy in the heart of Scalloway could provide a post office once Yealtaland Books gives up the service.
The final touches are currently being made to Norsepharm Ltd’s development on the village’s waterfront next to the Kiln Bar in time for an anticipated opening later this month – although no firm date has been set.
News emerged on Friday that the small bookseller was giving up the post office side of the business, having run it since 2008.
Norsepharm’s Torquil Clyde told The Shetland Times yesterday he would be interested in taking over the service, although he admitted other businesses in the village would no doubt also be keen.
He said delays in getting groundworks completed for the necessary water connections and other external works were the only things holding up the new shop.
Mr Clyde will attend a meeting with NHS Shetland’s pharmacy committee next week to seek the approval of a pharmacy licence.
He said: “I hope the pharmacy will be open by the end of August. We do hope to be open in the next few weeks, so we shouldn’t be too far away. The building is more or less complete.”
When news of the pharmacy broke last year it sparked fears over the future of the nearby doctor’s practice, which has relied on its dispensing income for a third of its annual income. Many turned out at a public meeting to voice their concerns over the plans.
Patients at the practice have now been told dispensing of prescriptions there will stop from 14th September.
The new pharmacy is also unpopular with owners of the nearby Scalloway Hotel, Peter and Caroline McKenzie, who say the building blots out picturesque views out of the harbour.
Mr Clyde admitted running the post office could be a way of getting people through his door who otherwise may not have been keen to support his business.
He said: “The post office is a great thing in the UK. I can see the logic of running it. The problem is all the other shops are interested as well, so it depends which shop is most appropriate and offers the most space.”
Even apart from the public opposition, the new pharmacy has endured a difficult gestation. In May Norsepharm withdrew its plans after a series of planning delays. It later submitted a new application.
As well as dispensing NHS prescriptions, it hopes to offer services in minor ailments, chronic medication, smoking cessation and healthcare advice.
The man in charge of the current post office, Andrew Jennings, is giving up the service after struggling to juggle post office demands with his lecturing job at the centre for Nordic Studies in the NAFC.
He has been running it with part time members of staff for the last four years. The shop will continue to sell books but the post office side will close on 12th September. The two current members of staff are making alternative plans for the future.
Mr Jennings said he hoped another local business would soon take on the service.
He said: “Post Office Ltd do want post office services to continue to be available in Scalloway and are seeking to restore them in a different location at the earliest opportunity.
“Please understand that I gave huge thought to the action I have had to take. I have not taken the decision lightly. I care very much about the village and trust that a new location will soon be found.
“I, and my excellent staff, have run the post office for four and a half years and have always tried to offer a cheerful, caring and efficient service. Thank you all for using our post office facilities so actively and please give your full support to my successor when appointed.”
Mr Jennings’ wife Alexis will run the bookshop. She said she hoped a local business would take on the service which would allow the post office to continue in the village.
She said: “We’re very keen that somebody else will take it on, because we know what a valuable service it is and we’re relying on the post office to do whatever they can to get a new post office up and running as soon as possible.”
That is something isles MP Alistair Carmichael is seeking assurances over. He said many in the village still remembered difficulties caused when the last post office closed.
Mr Carmichael said: “I understand that there are other local businesses who may be interested in hosting the sub-post office in Scalloway. I shall be pushing the post office management to pursue all these options as quickly as possible.
“Local people remember the difficulties caused the last time over the post office move in 2008. We must avoid a repetition and ensure that the village has a continuity of service.”