Nationwide has agreed to talks with the organiser of a 1,500-name petition against plans to close its branch in a Norfolk market town.

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The building society, which has been under increasing pressure since it announced plans in October to close its Harleston branch at the end of next month, has now agreed to a conference phone call with petition organiser Fiona Smith.

She said: “I’m delighted they want to talk, but it’s not really me they should be talking to, but the people of Harleston – the 1,500-plus people who have signed a petition urging Nationwide to stay.

“What we really want is for the senior managers to come here and face the people of Harleston in a public meeting so the community can have its say.

“Nationwide really should see this as a positive thing – it shows that people like banking with Nationwide, and want to carry on banking with them, because they have a branch in town.”

The offer of a conference call comes after South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, town council chairman Eric Bird and Clive Attwood, chairman of the Harleston and District Business Forum, spoke by phone for over an hour with Larry Banda, divisional director for the branch network, and Richard Wainer, head of policy and public affairs, at the end of November.

Following that call, Mr Bacon branded Nationwide’s decision to close the branch “short-sighted”, given that the town is expected to grow, adding: “Mutual building societies generally have a good record in taking account of the needs of local communities, which does make Nationwide’s decision all the more disappointing.”

Among comments posted by people on Facebook, Harleston resident Sarah Foster wrote: “Maybe we should all close our accounts with them and move them to the post office to make sure that’s not next.”

A Nationwide spokesman said: “We would be happy to speak to the petition organiser and have been in correspondence regarding this.

“Having spoken to the local MP, chairman of the town council and chairman of Harleston and District Business Forum in recent weeks, we feel that we have listened and understood the concerns they raised on behalf of their constituents and the local community.

“We have also taken the opportunity to explain, in full, the reasons behind our carefully considered decision. We don’t believe a further meeting would add anything further.”

If you wish to contact Nationwide about the closure, write to Complaints Team, Nationwide Building Society, NW 2020 Swindon, SN38 1NW or

visit www.nationwide.co.uk/contact_us/making_a_complaint

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