Norwich site revealed for new Virgin bank

The site of one of Virgin Money's first high street bank branches –described as a 'wholly new concept' – has been revealed in planning documents.

Richard Branson's banking business, founded in Norwich, has submitted a planning application to create a 'lounge store' for Castle Street in Norwich city centre.

The application, submitted to Norwich City Council, asks for permission to change the use of the building, currently a shop, to financial office use.

However, it also requests the use to cover seminars, displays, exhibitions, community space and hospitality, which was followed by sui generis in brackets (referring to uses unrelated to other uses).

The building is currently occupied by a branch of clothing store L K Bennett. Virgin Money's 'lounge store' could open as early as September.

The planning application states: 'Customers and visitors may enjoy hospitality, involvement in community events, seminars, displays and exhibitions, and refreshment.'

There will be traditional bank tellers, but they will only take up a quarter of the floor space, and the store will be open as late as 9pm employing an equivalent of 12 full time staff, it says.

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Scott Mowbray, spokesman for Virgin Money, said: 'The lounges are exclusively for our customers and we'll also open the lounges to the local community as part of our ambition to make everyone better off. In light of our long standing connections with Norwich, we are committed to opening one of our first lounges, which will evolve to become a full service banking branch, in the city.

'10 Castle Street is an ideal location for Virgin Money and being in the city's primary shopping area, our customers are likely to visit the surrounding retailers, reinforcing the vitality and colour of Norwich city centre.'

The financial firm aims to build up a network of branches after buying the Church House Trust last year to gain a banking licence.

It hopes to capitalise on its existing three million customers and branch into current and savings accounts.

It put itself in the running to buy more than 600 high street branches being sold off by Lloyds Banking Group earlier this year, and was also looking at 76 branches belonging to the nationalised Northern Rock.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of the Norwich-founded group, said in January that she hoped Virgin Money would become a 'significant banking player' within 18 months.

Even if it fails to buy existing branches the bank aims to create 70 new branches within the next five years, with the first four opening in Norwich, Manchester, Edinburgh and London. The company employs 250 people in Norwich.