Council bosses have hailed the unveiling of a new £4million Royal Mail site in South Shields as a key 'milestone' in their bid to regenerate the town.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has officially opened the new delivery office, based a mile from the Royal Mail's original site.
The decision to move the delivery office was announced last year after South Tyneside Council announced plans to regenerate South Shields town centre.
The council provided the new site, which Royal Mail has subsequently invested £4million in.
It has since worked in partnership with the council, employees, the Communications Workers Union and Unite Union to complete the move.
South Tyneside Council leader Coun Iain Malcolm says it is a significant moment in the 365 regeneration programme.
He said: "We worked closely with the Royal Mail for more than two years to support them with relocation so we are delighted to see the opening of this fantastic new facility.
“It is another milestone in the delivery of phase two of our South Shields 365 masterplan.
"We have already begun our programme of demolitions, including the Royal Mail’s former premises on Keppel Street, ahead of beginning construction of the transport interchange in the spring.”
About 91 people are based at the new site, which has been praised as 'amazing' by Mrs Lewell-Buck.
She said: "I was delighted to officially open this amazing new delivery office.
"Royal Mail is a much loved part of the fabric of our town.
"It’s always a worry when things change or move.
"After all, the Royal Mail brand is one we all recognise and have grown up with.
"However, having visited the delivery office a few weeks ago and met the staff here again, as well as listening to positive feedback from my constituents, I have been very impressed that customers are now receiving a much more modern, efficient and extended service.
"The staff here are so helpful, friendly and certainly ‘go the extra mile’ to give great customer service."
Mrs Lewell-Buck - who unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion - added: "I very much welcome this significant investment in South Shields.
"It shows a commitment from Royal Mail that you are looking to the future, building local services to respond to the way we live in 2018 and putting customers at the heart of that.
"As I unveiled this plaque, I left with the staff my very best wishes that this building quickly becomes a focal point in our community, a happy workplace and a thriving local business."
The office aims to provide better facilities for staff and customers, with longer opening hours and improved car parking.
Royal Mail delivery office manager Peter Stephenson said: “We are delighted that our MP Emma Lewell-Buck has officially opened the new South Shields delivery office serving over 40,000 business and social customers.
"The new office provides a great working environment as well as providing new facilities for customers picking up mail.
“Royal Mail provides one of the most comprehensive and best value services in the world, however, the way in which we communicate with each other has changed dramatically.
"Fewer letters are now posted every day with more parcels being delivered and Royal Mail needs to be as efficient as possible while providing a first class service to all our customers locally.
“The new office also has longer opening hours to help those customers pick up mail.
"We are pleased to play an important role in the local economy of South Shields and look forward to helping the area prosper for many years to come.”