Reepham traders suffering since smash-and-grab raid say the town is open for business

Reepham traders suffering since a smash-and-grab gang stole a cash machine are taking action to protect the town's economy after hearing the bank will not reopen before September.

HSBC initially aimed to reopen its Market Place branch two weeks after the Wednesday May 16 raid, but has now told businesses it will be delayed until September because of conservation area restrictions on building materials.

Diane Turner, who has run Diane's Pantry for 33 years, said takings were down 10-15pc since the robbery, and she was accepting IOUs and waiving fees for some credit card transactions under �10 to keep customers coming.

She said: 'It has definitely had an effect. We noticed it and are down quite dramatically. The market traders this morning have said how bad it is out there. I think people are going elsewhere to bank and they are shopping elsewhere.'

Reepham Chamber of Commerce is printing leaflets to remind people of an alternative ATM in the Spar in Ollands Road, and HSBC staff will offer limited non-cash services in the Bircham Centre from 10am to noon on Mondays and 11am to 1pm on Wednesdays, starting on Monday June 11.

Chamber chairman James Ellis said few towns of its size had a range of shops from a post office, grocer, butcher and bank, and while HSBC had been very helpful, the loss of one key service had shown how fragile the local economy was.

He said: 'We would like to get the message out that we are open for business and everyone is still open as usual.

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'What we are doing to try to keep people coming to Reepham so it will not change any patterns in the future, because if people get used to going somewhere else they get stuck with that routine. We have got to keep people coming to Reepham.'

Police have not made any arrests, and anyone with information should contact DS Chris Burgess in Great Yarmouth CID on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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