Plan announced to stop Richmondshire becoming bank-free zone

The former NatWest bank in Richmond.

The former and current leaders of a council have united behind concerted action to prevent a 1,318 sq km area with a population of more than 52,000 from becoming a bank-free zone.

Richmondshire District Council leader Conservative councillor Yvonne Peacock and her Independent predecessor Councillor John Blackie said having access to some banking services was vital to the economy of the rural district.

The pair unveiled proposals to register a bank building as a community asset and an ambition to offer banks a business rates discount at a full meeting of the district authority.

Earlier this month, Barclays announced plans to shut its Hawes branch, along with branches in several other market town banks in North Yorkshire, including Grassington, Pately Bridge, Knaresborough and Boroughbridge.

Barclays said its Hawes branch customer usage had declined and 68 per cent of its customers regularly used online and telephone banking.

The councillors said while they did not believe it would be possible to convince Barclays to change its plan to close the Market Place premises, which has been home to a bank for more than 150 years, it was hoped the banking giant would leave its cash machine in place.

Cllr Blackie said it was hoped to register the building an an asset of community value to freeze the sale of the building, giving the community, which saw the town’s HSBC branch close in 2016, a chance to consider its options.

He said while the Post Office in Hawes would provide some limited banking services, “the Dales relies on on the swift circulation of cash”. and that he was optimistic through a joint by the council, Upper Dales Community Partnership and councillors “we may get something out of Barclays”.

He added: “What I don’t think we are going to get, sadly, is for them to change their mind, and it’s a great shame.”

Cllr Peacock said she would lobby Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond to see if banks could be offered a business rates reduction as they typically had large premises.

She said: “What we have got to be doing now is trying to find a way to prevent the Barclays in Leyburn going, and the Barclays in Richmond. It may not be long before we have no banks in Richmondshire. If you are having to travel for general services with your bank account it is a long way from the Upper Dales to Leyburn.”

Richmond councillor Stuart Parsons added: “All the banks are treatened. We have lost two so far in Richmond. After the Yorkshire Bank closed we had to suffer the indignity of them coming in on the Tour de Yorkshire day and emblazon on the big screens how wonderful they are at supporting the local community.

“It was really quite insulting because they had only just left us, but they didn’t see the irony in that.”

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