post boxAnna Gowthorpe/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Royal Mail informed Enid Sugden, 82, of Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, that she would no longer be getting her post because the footpath to her house was 'too slippy'. It only came to light because she hadn't received any post in weeks, and she rang to find out where it was.

So why has Royal Mail taken this step, and is it allowed to?


Cut off

The footpath is not typical. It's a set of stones leading across a field. However, Sugden herself uses it every day and the 82-year-old says she doesn't have any difficulties. She has lived in her cottage for 50 years and says she hasn't had any trouble with deliveries in that time either.

The Royal Mail started to take an interest six weeks ago, when a postwoman slipped and hurt herself on one of the stones, which was covered in moss.

Spokeswoman Felicity McFarlane told the Daily Mail: "Unfortunately, the narrow road is also in the same condition and hazardous for the same reason. Suspension of delivery is always a last resort for Royal Mail. The arrangement is in place where the postman or postwoman will deliver mail when conditions underfoot are dry via the road. We have also offered the customer to have her mail delivered to a nearby address. This offer has not been taken up."

Sudgen said she doesn't want to have to bother her neighbours with her deliveries. However, she may have no choice, as the Royal Mail is within its rights to suspend delivery to that address.

The rules

Ofcom says that Royal Mail has to deliver to all permanently occupied homes. However, it actually delivers to 99.9% of them, because it is allowed to make certain exceptions.

The one Sudgen has fallen foul of is the Health and Safety rule. Royal Mail explains: "We cannot deliver to an address if this puts the health and safety of our staff at risk, for example, when an address can only be reached by crossing dangerous terrain. In this instance, we would suspend delivery to this address on a long-term basis. Or, if we suspend service following a specific incident, for example, if one of our staff is assaulted or attacked by a dog, the suspension is likely to be in the short-term."

The organisation said it will actually be taking a more robust stance against deliveries where there is a dangerous dog - so suspension of deliveries may be more common in future.

Other reasons

It can also suspend deliveries where the address is so remote that delivery is only possible by boat or by air - in which case it will deliver when the scheduled services travel to the area - or once a week. They can stop delivering if your address is so cut off that it takes an extra 15 minutes to get to it, or where they cannot access the property or a letter box.

If your mail is cut off, you can arrange to have daily delivery to a neighbour, to a local post office for collection, or to a roadside box. However, you may have to pay for these services if it involves an outlay for Royal Mail.

You can also appeal the decision - which you need to do within a month of the suspension. You start with Royal Mail, and if you have no luck there you can appeal to Ofcom.

But what do you think? Is it fair for Royal Mail to cut off services? Is a slippy path really such a major health hazard? Let us know in the comments.