The news that Fleetwood is to lose yet another high street bank branch has caused shockwaves through the town.
An announcement from the NatWest Bank that its Lord Street branch is to close comes just weeks after the town’s TSB branch, also on Lord Street, closed its doors for good.
When the NatWest branch shuts in June 2017 it will leave just three bank branches in the town – the Halifax on Poulton Street and the RBS and Santander on Lord Street.
Fleetwood lost its Barclays branch two years ago and before that its HSBC outlet, in addition to a string of building society branches.
The NatWest confirmed that four Fylde coast branches will close closing in June, the others being Kirkham, Lytham and Poulton-le-Fylde. Across Lancashire, 14 branches will close in total.
The bank states an increase in mobile and online users and a decline in branch users is the reason behind the “difficult decision”.
In Fleetwood, there was a grim reaction to the news this week.
Robert Brown, a stall holder at Fleetwood Market and a resident in the town, said: “It’s very bad news for Fleetwood on several fronts. The NatWest say people can go to the Cleveleys branch but that means customers who live in Fleetwood have to leave town if they need transactions over the counter with their bank.
“People who might otherwise have stayed and done their shopping in the town will now be going elsewhere.
“It also means we will have just three bank branches left in Fleetwood.
“We will also have an iconic, high street building lying empty.
“And speaking personally as a market trader, I deal in cash and would normally nip into the Lord Street branch to pay my takings into the account - and so do other traders who are with the Nat West.
“Now we’re all also going to have to leave town to do it. It’s very disappointing.”
Coun Mike Barrowclough, deputy chairman of Fleetwood Town Council, says the closure will hinder the town’s regeneration.
He said: “The town has a population of around 30,000 people and there will now only be three banks left. “Unfortunately, online and mobile banking just isn’t an option for many people and lots much prefer face-to-face banking.
“There is also lots of deprivation in the town meaning they don’t have access to a mobile phone or a computer.”
A Natwest spokesman said: “We are communicating with our customers affected by this decision and proactively contacting vulnerable and regular branch customers.
“We have listened closely to feedback from local communities and have extended the time between announcing our decision and the branch closure to six months.
“We have made the decision after careful consideration of a wide range of factors, including regular branch usage and the alternative ways our customers can bank with us.”
Natwest say the number of transactions in the Fleetwood branch has declined by 30% since 2011 and 48% of the customers of the branch are actively choosing to use online and or mobile banking.
The branch will close on June 8, 2017, meaning the nearest Natwest will be in Cleveleys, nearly four miles away.
But Coun Barrowclough added: “Lots of elderly people just can’t travel that far to use a bank.
“Fleetwood is a town which is trying to regenerate its town centre and this closure isn’t going to help at all.
“Businesses won’t want to come here when people don’t have a reason to go into town.”