Thousands sign petition to keep Lee bank branch open

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MORE than 1,000 people have signed a petition to stop the last bank in a high street from closing.

Businesses and neighbours in Lee-on-the-Solent have signed the petition after finding out the area’s only bank, HSBC, will be closing later this year.

Residents, business owners and councillors are unhappy that HSBC is closing its Lee-on-the-Solent branch. ''Picture: Ellie Pilmoor

Residents, business owners and councillors are unhappy that HSBC is closing its Lee-on-the-Solent branch. ''Picture: Ellie Pilmoor

They fear it will have a big impact on the other shops on High Street as footfall to the area would decline.

Suzanne Nunn, manager of Barnardo’s, said: ‘I don’t think HSBC understands the big impact it will have on us. Residents who come here to do their banking also tend to shop here for convenience.

‘If they can’t bank here, they will be going to Gosport and Fareham and we will lose customers.’

The other big concern for the business owners is lack of services being available elsewhere. HSBC has told customers they can pay in and draw money out of the Post Office and there is a free cashpoint along the high street. But Karen Jones, owner of Jemco Essentials, said one cash point is not enough to serve a whole high street.

‘There are queues at both cash points now so if that is reduced to one, there will be even more problems,’ she said.

Sarah Clapcott, manager of the Tea Party, agreed and said paying in large amounts of cash was easy when the bank was across the road.

She added: ‘I don’t know how much you can pay in at once at the Post Office.

‘If we have to travel to Gosport or Fareham, we will have to shut the shop and go during the day because by the time we finish work, the banks will be shut. It’s not safe travelling far with a lot of cash and closing for an hour will affect our businesses.’

Residents who are customers also feel let down as the bank said it would remain open when it became the last one.

Marion Kinnear has been a customer for 17 years. She said: ‘I am upset and disappointed with the bank. They said they would stay here and I know a lot of people became customers because they thought there would always be a branch.’

Ward councillors John Beavis and Graham Burgess have shown their support for the petition.

Cllr Beavis said: ‘Unfortunately there isn’t anything the council can do.

‘We have spoken to them but they are a big firm who have made their decision.’

A spokesman from HSBC said: ‘Footfall in our branches has fallen dramatically. On occasions this has meant we have needed to close branches. Decisions like this are never easy, but we’ve worked with the small number of customers to help them reorganise their finances ahead of the closure on November 28.’