NatWest to close last remaining bank branch in the Peak District

Bank says staff were only serving six customers on a regular weekly basis

NatWest is planning to close the last remaining bank branch in the entirety of the Peak District. 

The bank is closing the doors of its Bakewell branch, in Derbyshire, on Feb 22. This will mean that aside from local Post Offices, there will be no branches of any banks left in the 555-square-mile national park. 

Since 2015, NatWest has closed more branches than any other operator, shutting around 1,147 across the country.

Sarah Dines, the Tory MP for Derbyshire Dales, who is campaigning for the branch to stay open, told Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, in the Commons on Wednesday that the whole town of Bakewell was being “debanked”.

She said: “As disturbed as I was [that] British politicians were being debanked by NatWest, you can imagine my horror that an entire town, Bakewell in Derbyshire Dales, is being debanked by NatWest.

“And in the whole of Derbyshire Dales and the Peak District, there isn’t a bank [branch] left. Can you share my concern please that as we are the national shareholder of NatWest, why are they ignoring my vulnerable, elderly people and also businessmen – it is a big, thriving market town.”

Mr Sunak responded by saying that all banking customers “wherever they live should have appropriate access to banking and cash services”, pointing to rules brought in to combat the decline in bank branches and cash machines over the summer. 

He added: “I know there has been an assessment on access to cash in her area and the financial services sector will provide a new cash deposit service for her community and everyone can access the Post Office for regular banking services.”

When the Bakewell branch shuts the closest branch will be in Chesterfield 13 miles and a 25-minute drive away. The other closest branch is in Matlock, a town outside the national park some nine miles from Bakewell. 

There are Post Offices in the Peak District and Derbyshire Dales, including Bakewell, that offer some banking services.

Link, which runs cash machines across the country, has confirmed that construction of a “banking hub” will be used to continue certain services to customers.

Around 80 such hubs are set to be installed around the country over the next few years. These hubs will be run by the Post Office and have deposit and cash facilities from multiple banks.

NatWest said it decided to close the branch because staff were only serving six customers on a regular weekly basis, with counter transactions for personal customers decreasing by 55pc since 2019.

A spokesman said: “As with many industries, most of our customers are shifting to mobile and online banking because it’s faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives.  

“We understand and recognise that digital solutions aren’t right for everyone or every situation, and that when we close branches we have to make sure that no one is left behind.

“We take our responsibility seriously to support the people who face challenges in moving online, so we are investing to provide them with support and alternatives that work for them.”

NatWest, which is backed by British taxpayers, has been rocked by the Nigel Farage debanking scandal in which NatWest-owned Coutts bank attempted to close the prominent politician’s account after judging he held “xenophobic, chauvinistic and racist views”.

The debanking scandal, which began over the summer, led the Government to introduce strict new rules for banks to ensure accounts are not closed at short notice and that customers have access to cash.

The Financial Conduct Authority, the City watchdog, set down rules in August that state that people living in urban areas must have access to cash deposit and withdrawal services within one mile; for people in rural areas, it is three miles.