December 8 2013 Latest news:
Friday, September 13, 2013
Business and community leaders have voiced strong fears after a national bank confirmed it would be pulling out of a historic Suffolk town by the end of the year.
HSBC’s decision to shut its premises in Church Street, Framlingham, means that Barclays will be the only dedicated high street branch left.
Banking can still be done via the post office but concerns have been raised about its limited opening hours.
HSBC has said it will close its branch on December 6 because of a “significant” drop in footfall and is now working with its customers to help reorganise their finances.
Christopher Hudson, district councillor for Framlingham and vice chairman of Suffolk County Council, said he was extremely concerned, describing the move as the “nail in the coffin”.
“There is a lot of people very worried about it,” he said. “I fear it could be the nail in the coffin for commercial activity in the town. I would like to see the decision reversed. It means people who bank there will either have to change who they are with or spend money travelling to a different town. It always seems a very busy little branch and it is a very much needed facility.”
Mr Hudson said he had contacted local MP Dan Poulter and would be investigating the possibility of appealing against the closure.
Jenny Stockman, chairman of Framlingham Business Association (FBA), said a number of traders had aired strong concerns.
“Many will now be forced to change who they bank with because they have to pay cash or cheques in once a day,” she said. “There’s a huge economic cost. To travel to a different town everyday to pay in your takings is not viable.
“There’s also a security issue. You can’t have lots of money on a premises to only pay into a bank once a week. It also means people have to wait longer for the money to appear in their account - some businesses can’t afford that.”
Mrs Stockman also said it was important the branch building - once it was sold - was not left empty and that the FBA would resist any attempt to convert it to flats or housing.
Dr Poulter said it was a shame the branch was closing but added that Framlingham was a vibrant town that would prove resilient.
He also said he understood that HSBC had a reciprocal agreement with other branches to offer over the counter services.
A spokeswoman for HSBC said there were two people currently employed at the branch and they would be transferred to other premises.
“Our branches are a very important way for our customers to bank with us and we have spent more than £100million in recent years upgrading and improving them,” she said. “However, we need to ensure that our branches are in the right locations and on occasions this means that we need to close a branch where customer footfall has fallen dramatically or there has been a shift in customer shopping patterns.
“Our branch in Framlingham is a case in point. Customer usage of the branch has fallen very significantly over the past few years.
“Customer habits are changing - they are now increasingly using branches where they work, or they are using the 24 hour convenience of internet or telephone banking. Our network has to be ‘fit for purpose’ and we have to ensure that our branches are located in areas where they are used.
“Decisions like this are never easy, but we are working with the small number of customers who use the branch to help them reorganise their finances ahead of the planned closure.
“All our customers also have access to their accounts, to withdraw and pay in cash, at any UK post office and all residents of Framlingham will continue to have access to other banking facilities in the town and several ‘fee free’ ATMs within the area.”