CAMPAIGNERS battling to save Highcliffe’s last banking branch have admitted defeat.
The Nationwide Building Society has confirmed it will be leaving the village at the end of the month despite a 300-name petition collected by former Dorset and Christchurch councillor Colin Jamieson.
Highcliffe parish councillor Bob Hutchings said he had written to the CEO of Nationwide asking him to reconsider the decision.
Cllr Hutching told the A&T: “I just got a standard letter back from one of their directors explaining their reasons for the closure.
“I fear the battle is lost but it is so frustrating. There is now just the post office in Highcliffe for banking purposes. There are a lot of elderly and infirm people who will really struggle to get to Christchurch.
“I’ve told them to ask Nationwide to pay their taxi fare.”
Cllr Hutchings said people in Highcliffe felt “let down” by Nationwide which had previously pledged to keep the branch open.
He added: “I believe that they will probably shut the Lymington and New Milton branches in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if they shut Christchurch and said people had to get to Bournemouth or go online.”
Tina Conway, owner of the Driftwood café, which is next to the Nationwide in Lymington Road, said many of her elderly customers have been “left extremely upset” by the action.
She said: “A lot are 80-plus, one is disabled and uses a motorised wheelchair. She can’t take a bus to Christchurch where the next branch is.
“She will have to take a taxi there and back which will cost her £13 each way. It just isn’t fair on people like her.
“Nationwide have told them they can use the post office in Highcliffe, but they want to be able to use their own bank.”
Miss Conway said a lot of her elderly customers were also concerned about Nationwide’s advice to use online banking, saying: “Some of them don’t know how to do that, while others don’t trust it.
“They want to speak to someone and receive a paper receipt if they are paying money in or taking it out.”
Nationwide announced last year it intended to close the branch as part of a UK-wide strategy to cut staff costs. The Highcliffe branch now bears signs saying: “This branch is closing but it is not goodbye.
“We might be leaving Highcliffe, but we’ll still be here for you. After the branch closes at 2pm on Friday 31st January 2020.
“You can still visit our other branches in the local area.”
The posters in the window have the address of the Christchurch branch and advise that Nationwide members can use the ATM at the Co-op in Highcliffe.
A spokesman for Nationwide said: “We know that 86% of members who use the Highcliffe branch already use nearby branches, and we have invested in the Christchurch and New Milton branches as well as Southbourne, Ferndown, Broadstone, Poole, Parkstone and Wimborne.”