Nationwide to close its Leigh Park branch

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HOPES of saving a Leigh Park building society from closure have been shattered.

Senior bosses at Nationwide have confirmed they intend to shut the branch in Park Parade because they see ‘limited opportunities’.

Richard Wainer, head of policy and public affairs, confirmed the company’s position in a letter to Havant MP David Willetts.

Mr Willetts wrote to the company for an explanation after local people were angry that a well-used bank was closing, leaving only a Natwest branch in the heart of Leigh Park.

As reported in The News, a campaign was launched, led by Leigh Park Women’s Institute, to try to get the company to change its mind.

But Mr Wainer wrote: ‘I do sympathise with the concerns raised by some of your constituents regarding ease of travel to the Havant branch and I fully appreciate that branch closures inevitably inconvenience certain customers.

‘I can assure you that the decision was only taken after much careful thought and consideration.

‘Our analysis of the Leigh Park branch revealed that customer activity has declined significantly over the past four years. Those members who have taken out products at the branch are increasingly managing their money in other ways.

‘Unfortunately we see very limited opportunity for sustained growth in the Leigh Park branch.’

He added: ‘We regularly review the performance of our branch network to ensure that it continues to operate as efficiently as possible and, unfortunately, this means we sometimes have to make the difficult decision to close a branch.’

The closure, set to happen at the end of April, comes as a bitter blow to Leigh Park Traders’ Association, which has been trying over the last year to draw more people back to Park Parade and Greywell.

Helen Dunning, who owns Always Flowers and chairs the association, said: ‘It’s sad that a big company is jumping ship. There’s an awful lot of people who rely on that branch.

‘It means they have to travel further and have more expense.

‘The association is working hard to bring business back to Park Parade.

‘Now people are going elsewhere to do their banking, they probably won’t come back to do their shopping.’

The decision comes as new owners have bought the Greywell Centre nearby and vowed to pump hundreds of thousands into revamping the shopping centre. They also plan to bring in new retailers.

Mrs Dunning added: ‘It’s another one of the big cats leaving and leaving the little traders to pick up the pieces.’

Nationwide will continue to have branches in West Street, Havant, and London Road, Waterlooville.