The government’s decision to close about 2500 post offices by 2009 has alarmed rural campaigners who claim the move will hit the countryside hard.

Damian Cleghorn, spokesman for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said the decision showed a lack of joined-up thinking in Whitehall.

“The closure of rural post offices will do nothing to re-invigorate rural England. If communities are to flourish, direct action will be needed to develop sustainable communities by creating integrated transport infrastructures, improving employment opportunities and by building affordable housing.

“It also makes no sense for people to get into their cars and make journeys for services that were previously available in their community. Post office closures will do nothing to cut emissions and protect the environment. “

Dr Stuart Burgess, chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities and the Rural Advocate, warned the people most likely to suffer from the move were the elderly, disabled and low-incomes families.

“Over one third of post office users in rural areas are from a household with children and over a quarter of customers are from households with people aged 60 or over,” he said.

“In addition, many shops and other services are linked with the post office in rural areas and we do not want changes to the post office business undermining other crucial rural services.”

Research commissioned by the CRC and Postwatch has shown that over half (58%) of people in rural areas use the post office to access other services.

The Federation of Small Businesses also carried out a survey which found 82% of small businesses thought the closure of their local post office would have a significant impact on local business.

But the government has pointed out that the Post Office is estimated to have lost £4m each week of this year.

Also, on average the 800 smallest rural post offices served just 16 people a week at a cost to the taxpayer of £17 per visit.