Anger as village bank reveals plans to close

ROBERTSBRIDGE residents have expressed anger after the only bank in the village announced it is to close later this year.

NatWest says it is to shut the branch in the High Street on November 20, citing a ‘significant fall’ in transactions.

Meanwhile the Ticehurst branch is to shut on November 11.

But villagers say the bank did not consult its customers.

Rother District Councillor Sue Prochak said: “I find it outrageous that NatWest made this decision to remove their branch from Robertsbridge.

“They have reduced their hours already and certainly when I go in, the branch is busy. There are a number of businesses who rely on the branch and I know that local organisations choose to bank with NatWest because we have a local branch.

“In addition Robertsbridge, as well as Ticehurst, has been designated as ‘Service Centres’ in Rother District Council’s new Local Plan. One of the services we expect is the continuation of banking facilities.

“There has been no consultation with the community at all.

“While some banking services are being proposed through the existing Post Office, there is uncertainty over its future as there was a proposal to relocate the post office to the local One Stop. This may or may not be feasible.

“NatWest should at least delay this sudden decision until we are certain about the future of the Post Office.”

Stephen Hardy, chairman of Robertsbridge Enterprise Group, said: “Speaking on behalf particularly of all the business users of the branch we thoroughly regret the decision which appears to have been taken without any consultation whatsoever.

“The bank have not disclosed its criteria for shutting the branch, and thus we have no way of constructively responding to the closure announcement.

“We have encouraged local businesses and other organisations in the past to use the Natwest Bank for their accounts purely on the basis that Natwest provided a useful facility in the village which accorded with our principles of sustainability, even after it reduced the number of days it opened in the village a few years ago.

“Natwest being publicly owned should have higher principles of service to the community than they clearly now demonstrate.

“Robertsbridge Enterprise Group will be setting up a petition against the closure which will be widely available in the village and via its website.

A spokesperson for NatWest said: “The number of transactions taking place in both these branches has fallen significantly over the last few years. The Ticehurst branch is only open for four hours a week, while the Robertsbridge branch is only open for eight hours a week. Neither branch has technology so it’s not linked to our computer systems.” The branch is the process of writing to customers.