Royal Mail is to close one of its Oxford sorting offices in order to modernise its operations, the Oxford Mail can reveal today.

Bicycles outside the Headington sorting office

The company, under fire for months for a poor delivery service in the city, has drawn up plans for the closure of Headington's Lime Walk office.

Oxford Communication Workers Union representatives have been informed of the move and it is believed the office's 60-strong workforce will be told tomorrow by management at a meeting.

Royal Mail said there would be no job losses as all staff would be moved to its office in Sandy Lane, Blackbird Leys, Oxford.

It said the office there was bigger and more modern, and the move would help improve efficiency and provide a better environment for staff.

But there are fears the closure will lead to worse delays and more postal problems.

Headington resident Vera Roberts, 54, of Green Road, said: "Having to trail all the way to Blackbird Leys to pick up a parcel will be catastrophic.

"It seems like another blow to the Headington area. I have a car and I'm lucky because I can get around, but Headington has a lot of pensioners who can't.

"I think it will mean we will get our post later in the day. "It could have major implications for us."

Janet Isaac, of the Highfield Residents' Association, campaigned against the closure of New Marston Post Office in William Street earlier this month, and the planned closure of the Old Marston branch in Oxford Road on September 30.

Mrs Isaac, of Lime Walk, said: "It is a shame that the branches are closing, and closing the sorting office will make it awkward for people wanting to pick up parcels.

"However, the closure will ease traffic problems in Lime Walk and London Road and some residents will certainly welcome that.

"The sorting office can be quite noisy in the early mornings and people living nearby complain about it."

David Rundle, Liberal Democrat city councillor for Headington, said the area, particularly Marston, had already been hit by post office closures.

He said: "This is clearly a bad month for post users. People in Headington in recent months, like other places in Oxford, have been really concerned about the quality of service.

"To say service is being improved by cutting service is going against common sense. I will chase up this information with Royal Mail."

Mary Clarkson, Labour city councillor for Marston, said: "I am not convinced this will lead to improvements because all the cutbacks in the past have meant more inefficiency." Mrs Clarkson, of Dunstan Road, Headington, who received a TV licence payment reminder warning her she could go to prison -- 10 months after it was posted -- added: "Residents don't want to make a car journey just to pick up a parcel."

Kevin Duffy, spokesman for the CWU's Oxford branch, said he was not prepared to comment until tomorrow's official announcement.

Richard Hall, Royal Mail spokesman, said: "We are planning to move Headington sorting office into Sandy Lane, simply because Headington is too small for a modern-day mail operation, and the space constraints in the future mean there is no room for growth and will impact on quality and health and safety.

"It's a residential area with vehicles going in and out in the early hours of the morning, so the closure will have some benefit for people living in Lime Walk.

"Customers don't have to pick up parcels from Sandy Lane. They can arrange for delivery to their local post office and there is the option of having an item re-delivered at a mutually convenient time."

Mr Hall said the new sorting office was two-and-a-half miles away from the existing one, and while some postmen and women will have to travel further for their rounds, some will be closer. He said: "The move will allow us to have the most up-to-date sorting equipment and more space to operate in and improve efficiency over all. Staff at Lime Walk don't have a canteen -- they will have one at their new site."

He would not reveal when the office would shut.

Derrick Millard, the Midlands representative for Postwatch, a Government-backed body set up to monitor the postal industry, said: "I hope this decision guarantees an improvement in the standard of deliveries for members of the public, and then I am sure most people would be only too glad to endorse this."

Oxford's postal service was thrown into chaos following a 16-day strike in April.

Despite assurances from Royal Mail that the problem was sorted, the Oxford Mail has continued to receive scores of complaints from customers whose post has been lost or delayed.

Between April and June, only 68 per cent of first-class mail from Oxfordshire to elsewhere in the country reached its destination on time. Headington and Barton have been among the worst-affected areas.