In just three days, almost 1,300 people signed a petition against plans by Nationwide to close its branch in a Norfolk market town.

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The first instalment of the petition, which was only launched this week, was handed in to the Harleston branch on Wednesday, but campaigners say more signatures will follow.

Petition organiser Fiona Smith said: “The huge number of people who have signed this petition already shows the strength of feeling in the town against the branch closure. Put simply, people want Nationwide to stay.

“And this is just the start – we are still collecting names. There are petitions in shops throughout the town for people to sign which we will hand in to Nationwide at a later date.

“I hope it’s enough for Nationwide to realise there is a future for them in Harleston and to reconsider their decision.”

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, who has asked to meet with the building society’s bosses, said: “I’m delighted that the people of Harleston have swung into action so speedily.

“This petition has attracted massive local support in a very short space of time and it continues to grow. Nationwide should be in no doubt as to the strength of local feeling.

“I hope that they are taking this opportunity to think again.”

Robin Twigge, regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses and owner of the Swan Hotel in Harleston, said: “Many small businesses moved from HSBC, when that closed, to Nationwide and now they’ll have to move again.

“This is another nail in the coffin for small businesses and I urge Nationwide to reconsider and support the local economy.”

A Nationwide spokesman said: “We welcome all feedback and I can confirm receipt of a petition and that we are currently reviewing this. We are in contact with the local MP’s office regarding his request for a meeting.

“I would like to reiterate that this was a difficult, but carefully considered decision based on a number of factors including declining customer usage, profitability and expiring lease.”

Anger has been growing since the building society announced plans last month to close its Thoroughfare branch on January 31 – just months after the HSBC bank shut its doors.

Nationwide’s decision has been slated by local councillors, and the business forum and town council are also seeking a meeting with its bosses.

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