‘APPALLED and disappointed’.
That’s the view of Chelford residents and businesses after they hit out at decision to close the only bank in the village.
But they have told the Guardian they are determined not to let it go without a fight.
Customers of Nat West’s sub-branch on Knutsford Road have been advised that the branch will cease business on June 18.
The state-backed bank said the ‘significant drop’ in customer numbers is the reason for the closure and have offered alternative ways for customers to fulfil their banking needs – such as online, mobile, telephone, or visiting the Alderley Edge branch or Post Office.
Many residents and businesses are unhappy about the closure and fear it will have a detrimental effect on the entire village.
Resident Howard Leach said: “As a village we have decided that we will not let this closure happen lightly and we have already made steps to make sure our voices are heard.
"We currently have petitions situated in five of the busiest businesses in the village – including the National Westminster Bank and already have almost 400 signatures.
“This alone shows how many local people this closure will affect.”
Chelford Tenants and Residents Association (CTARA) said that many of its members were both ‘appalled and disappointed’ when they learned of the bank’s intentions.
Many concerns were raised, such as how it will affect older customers who do not have internet access or computer skills, or are not mobile enough to travel the 4 miles to Alderley Edge or the 1 mile to the Post Office.
They also worried about the businesses and market users who use the bank to deposit cash and exchange money for change, and said that leaving the supportive farming community without a local bank was ‘deplorable.’
The group also dispute Nat West’s assertion that only 20 customers use the bank, which opens 7 hours a week, on a regular basis. Members set up outside the bank on March 31 and said they counted at least 130 people going into the bank.
It was also highlighted that the closure would be contradictory to Nat West’s Customer Charter commitment to never shut the last bank in town.
A Nat West spokesperson said: “Many branches classed as ‘Last Bank in Town’ are only open for a few hours a week and only see one or two customers per hour.
“We have to adapt to what our customers want, which is why we’re investing in a range of other ways our customers can bank with us, including online and telephone banking, our mobile app, and in any one of the Post Office’s 11,500 branches across the UK."
The spokesperson added that since this commitment was made in 2010, customers have adopted different ways of banking, and therefore the lender had to look at each Last Bank in Town on its individual merits.
Residents have also written to Tatton MP George Osborne in a bid to garner his support.
Mr Osborne said: “It is very disappointing that the NatWest Chelford branch is to close in June because not enough customers are using it. I’ve been keen to ensure that an agreement is being worked out with the Chelford Post Office to allow customers to withdraw cash, pay money in, check balances and pay bills free of charge.
“I am working hard to ensure that these important facilities continue for local customers at the village Post Office.”
Chelford is one of 26 bank branches being closed across the UK as part an RBS programme. Those in opposition to the closure said they will continue with their campaign and are planning to hold numerous meetings in the near future.