'Yet another blow' as town bank earmarked for closure

Hamilton Road, Felixstowe high street

The HSBC branch in Felixstowe's Hamilton Road before lockdown - Credit: Google Maps

The loss of a HSBC bank from Felixstowe high street will be a big blow to the town, a business leader has warned.

The planned closure of the Hamilton Road bank - which is scheduled to shut on July 23 as part of a major cull of 82 UK branches this year - would hit business and the community, the town chamber's chairman has warned.

Roger Abbott, who heads up Felixstowe Chamber of Commerce, said the town contained a large older and elderly population and a big healthcare sector to support it - all of whom would be affected.

"It's yet another blow to the Felixstowe business sector," he said. "It's one of the few large banks which still has an office here." 

He knew of a number of small businesses and charities which made use of the bank, he said.

"You have still got a large number of people who use cheques and cash," he said. "They need the personal touch and obviously that's reducing now."

He feared it would hit footfall in the town as the bank was one of the draws. "It will stop people coming into town," he said.

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"It's not good news and it's certainly going to hit the community - not just business."

Protests were sparked when Marks and Spencer closed its store in town in 2019, and the latest lockdown could lead to some more high street casualties as chains tumble.

The resort's Ponden Homes store, part of the former Philip Day retail empire, didn't make it onto a list of stores rescued in a sale deal put together by administrators this month.    

Mayor of Felixstowe Mark Jepson urged those who bank with the branch to show support to other banks and building societies in the town and move to them.

"I think it's incredibly disappointing but I suppose in the current climate not surprising," he said.

"I feel for those who aren't as familiar with online and are relying on the bank but we still have other banks in the town so let's support the banks which are still operating."

The town's businesses have voted to form a Business Improvement District (BID) and a steering group is in the process of electing a manager to run it when it launches in April. BIDs levy funds from businesses to make improvements to towns. 

Despite the bank closure setback, the town councillor said there was a spirit in the town of wanting to rise to the challenge once lockdown is over.

"I feel there's a real commitment from the existing shopkeepers and the town and town centre to do everything we can to help the town bounce back.

"I genuinely believe the town has shown it's resilient and I think this is a good opportunity for independent shopkeepers," he said. "There's a real nucleus of strong businesses in the town."

HSBC said it aims to redeploy the vast majority of staff to nearby branches and does not expect any redundancies from the move, as more customers turn to online services.

The Felixstowe branch is earmarked for closure on July 23 this year, while another branch in Colchester is due to shut on June 4.

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