Nationwide refuses to budge on Harleston branch closure
Nationwide has refused to budge on its plans to close a Norfolk market town branch, despite a petition signed by more than 1,600 people.
Petition organiser Fiona Smith and business forum chairman Clive Attwood met Nationwide senior managers for talks in Harleston on Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to stop the building society from closing the branch at the end of January.
Mrs Smith said: 'I would have preferred it if they had come to a public meeting and let the people of Harleston have their say, but I appreciate the fact that that they did at least agree to this meeting.
'Unfortunately, despite the fact that more than 1,600 people want Nationwide to stay, they simply wouldn't budge.
'We even suggested some alternatives to leaving the town altogether, such as setting up an arrangement with the post office so people could do their Nationwide banking through there, but they still said 'no'.
'The town put up a good fight, we tried our best, but Nationwide just isn't interested in staying. The only suggestion I can make is that people move their accounts to the Co-op Bank who do have an arrangement with the post office – perhaps the extra business there will help our post office to stay open.'
Mr Attwood, of the Harleston and District Business Forum, said: 'They again reiterated that footfall in a town the size of Harleston just doesn't warrant the costs of running an office here.
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'We tried to make them see that Harleston is growing but they're not going to change their minds. It's very sad.
'But they did at least seem to go out of their way to explain the reasons for their decision.
'We may not have won this time, but it does show that the people of Harleston are not a walkover.'
Nationwide area director Alan Graham hosted the meeting in Harleston, with Larry Banda, divisional director of the branch network, on the phone in a conference call.
Afterwards, Mr Banda said: 'I welcomed the opportunity to speak to Fiona and would like to thank her for the time she has invested in gathering the petition signatures.
'We have listened to and understood the concerns raised and in doing so explained, in full, the reasons behind our difficult but carefully considered decision, by which we continue to stand.'