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Red letter day as Royal Mail stamps approval for new postboxes

By Claire O'Boyle

Almost 300 new postboxes will be installed across Northern Ireland, Royal Mail has announced.

The familiar red boxes will be positioned mainly in rural areas, new housing developments and in places with high footfall like train stations and shopping centres.

The exact locations will be revealed in the spring and the first wave of the 280 installations is expected to start within a couple of months.

These will add to the province's existing 2,315 postboxes.

Royal Mail general manager Paul Sweeney said: "Access to postboxes is very important to our customers in Northern Ireland.

"This programme underlines our commitment to them and the universal service.

"The new boxes will benefit rural areas, which have not previously been served postboxes.

We are also installing boxes in urban areas in response to changes in population."

Kellin McCloskey, head of postal services at the Consumer Council, said: "We have been involved in early discussions with Royal Mail to ensure consumers can more easily access postal services through increasing its postbox coverage.

"Given Northern Ireland had the lowest level of postboxes of all UK nations, this is good news for consumers here."

Along with England (also 280), Northern Ireland will receive the highest number of new postboxes in the UK - Scotland will get 150 and Wales 46 - because its rural nature meant postbox density here has traditionally been lower than elsewhere.

In urban areas postboxes may have been previously removed for security reasons.

Royal Mail has a network of 115,300 red postboxes across the UK and the number has remained stable over the past decade.

Royal Mail will continue to look at installing more postboxes over the next two years.

Meanwhile, the latest figures from the Post Office show that the number of branches in Northern Ireland actually went up from March 2015 when there were 477 to 484 at the same time last year.

Its Shaftesbury Square branch in Belfast was shut in July, although another branch earmarked for closure at Castle Mall in Antrim town is still open as the Post Office currently looks for a suitable retail partner nearby to take over.

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