Customers and MP urge NatWest bank to rethink Leigh Park branch closure

: Tara Fisher with the petition, outside Natwest in Park Parade, Leigh Park.''Picture: Sarah Standing (143488-1562)
: Tara Fisher with the petition, outside Natwest in Park Parade, Leigh Park.''Picture: Sarah Standing (143488-1562)
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MORE than 1,000 people have signed a petition demanding the last bank in a town is kept open.

NatWest announced last month it is to close its branch in Leigh Park – despite a promise in 2010 that it would not close any banks that were the last in the area.

Tara Fisher, from Leigh Park, immediately launched a campaign to halt the closure – receiving huge support. She sent the 1,000 strong petition to Ross McEwan, chief executive of NatWest.

Ms Fisher has also been backed by Havant MP David Willetts who has also written to Mr McEwan, urging him to rethink the closure.

She said: ‘NatWest has let us down.

‘They made a promise they would not leave if they were the last bank.

‘I’ve stood outside in the freezing cold to collect signatures and I’ve had a queue of people wanting to sign – that is how keenly people will feel this.

‘It is convenient and I use it all the time. It is terrible for the elderly people. Getting into Havant is not easy and most do not have the internet to do online banking.

‘They feel very strongly about it and very angry and very upset. It is not right that Leigh Park is being treated in this way.’

Mark Johnson, chairman of Leigh Park Community Association, said his staff will now be put at risk because weekly takings will have to be taken all the way into Havant town centre to bank.

He described getting to Havant as a ‘logistical nightmare’ because it is pedestrianised and added: ‘The outrageous decision to close this branch is a massive slap in the face to all loyal customers and tax payers that bailed out Royal Bank Scotland (NatWest parent company) in their time of need and I personally will not allow this decision to come to fruition without a fight.’

And Mr Willetts said the decision to close in February left people feeling angry.

He said: ‘They also feel let down that when Nationwide closed, they were promised NatWest would be remaining.

‘Leigh Park is a sizeable community and is trying to sustain as much of their local business as possible.

‘There are many elderly and disabled people who will find it difficult to travel the few miles to NatWest in Havant. Many elderly people do not do online banking.’

He added: ‘I also believe a bank which has been present in an area as long as NatWest has been in Leigh Park, and knowing that they are the last bank in the community, does have to take this into account when arriving at their decision to close the branch.’

A spokeswoman said the last bank in the community promise was made in 2010 and banking had changed significantly since then.

She added: ‘The Leigh Park Havant branch will still close on February 24.

‘This is because the number of transactions taking place at this branch has dropped by 17 per cent over the last few years.’