Villagers’ shock as only bank announces closure

VILLAGERS and businesses in Backwell are outraged that their only bank is set to close on November 25.

Customers from HSBC’s Backwell branch were informed by letter that the branch will soon close and they can now use the new, state-of-the-art branch in Nailsea or travel to Bristol to access the service.

But many Backwell residents are elderly and do not drive or use internet banking services, making it difficult for them to get to Nailsea.

Terry Merrett-Smith, aged 69, of Rodney Road, said: “It’s just not suitable. They sent us a letter saying that it is for our convenience that we will be able to use the state-of-the-art branch in Nailsea, but how can going to another branch in another town be better than going to one in the village. It doesn’t matter if it’s state-of-the-art, it’s of little use to us here in Backwell.

“They’re closing the branch without any thought to customers, especially the elderly and disabled. Some people in the village don’t drive and they don’t want to go to Nailsea. It’s just another business which is closing in the village.”

HSBC spokesman, Mark Hemingway, confirmed the company is currently updating and improving its branches. He said: “We need to ensure that our branches are in the right locations for our customers and on occasions this means that we need to close some branches where customer footfall has fallen dramatically or there has been a shift in customer shopping patterns.

“The Backwell branch is currently only open for limited hours during the week (4 hours per day) and not open on a weekend. Customer usage of the branch has fallen very significantly over the past few years.”

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He also added that customers are increasingly using telephone and internet banking services and accessing branches where they work rather than where they live.

But Bob Taylor, who runs Taylor’s newsagents in Backwell and is also a parish councillor, believes it will be a huge blow to the village.

He said: “A lot of residents in Backwell are old people who don’t drive. From their point of view it’s a terrible blow. They are now going to have to get to Nailsea somehow to do their banking.

“It will also affect businesses. For security reasons we don’t want to go all the way to Nailsea to use the bank, but we’ll have to. Whenever you read the news it’s all about keeping small businesses, especially in rural areas. We used to have 30-40 shops here but now we only have about 20. It’s a very busy bank and it’s very sad it’s closing.”

The bank is hoping to leave a cash point in the village and is currently investigating the best location for the service. The two members of staff who work at the branch will transfer to other local branches.