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NatWest Bank In Chelford To Close

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Customers of the NatWest Bank have received notification that the branch on Knutsford Road is to close in June this year. The branch has long served Chelford villagers, businesses and in particular, customers of Chelford Agricultural Centre.

This is a blow to many in the village as there are no other banking facilities or even a cashpoint in this part of the village, the nearest ones being at the Post Office and Shell Garage at the east end of Chelford, approximately half a mile away.

Chelford resident, Dr David Stannard wrote to Tatton MP, George Osborne, pointing out that what appears to be purely a business decision will have a large impact on many elderly Chelford residents. The people most affected are those with transport difficulties and who either do not have access to, or do not trust internet banking. Dr Stannard stated that "what many older customers would like is access to 'old fashioned' traditional local banking (with personal attention and hassle-free looking after our money — essentially a loyalty deal with a fair rate of return for long term commitment)".

Mr Osborne queried the proposed closure with Michael Crow, Head of UK Regional Public Affairs at the bank and received a reply outlining the decision to close the NatWest Chelford branch on 18th June 2014. The bank argues that the branch is only open for 7 hours a week and there are only 20 customers who use it on a regular basis. Mr Crow stated that NatWest are taking a number of measures to ensure that they still serve all their customers in the area by working on an agreement with the local Post Office that will allow customers to withdraw cash, pay money in, check balances and pay bills free of charge and, for customers who have basic bank accounts at this branch, restrictions currently in place will be lifted to allow customers to use ATMs from other banks.

Mr Crow went on to argue that over the whole branch network there has been a 30% drop in branch transactions since 2010 as people do their banking when and where it is convenient for them. The bank is investing £700m across the UK over the next three years to improve the way they serve their customers. This will include branch refurbishments, investment in digital banking and the ATM network.

Dr Stannard's view was that, for many, the Post Office is not a very practical alternative. For those without transport, it is a good half mile walk away on a narrow footpath alongside the busy and dangerous main road. The bank closure represents a further erosion of rural village life.

David Kent, organiser of Chelford Tenants and Residents Association was similarly concerned for older residents, many of whom have used the branch for many years.

More news and comment to follow.

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