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Protesters fear for market town after bank’s closure
BUSINESSES say Woodstock’s future as a market town is threatened by the closure of one of its two remaining banks.
Chris Bayliss, chairman of traders’ group Wake Up To Woodstock, said: “Our worry is that once one bank goes, the other may close.
“It is another hammer-blow for Woodstock as a surviving market town.’’ The Woodstock NatWest is one of 44 RBS branches closing across the UK. It leaves just one bank, Barclays, in the town.
The closures come after RBS said it planned to slash more than £5bn over the next three to four years after slumping into the red by £8.2bn in 2013.
Mr Bayliss, owner of the Real Wood Company in Oxford Street, said the town had recently lost its DIY store and butcher and the closure of NatWest on May 28 would be a further setback.
“We are not big enough to survive on our own. We depend on the surrounding villages, and this is another reason for people not to come here. It’s a great shame. I’m not confident we will be able to overturn the decision, but we want to make some form of protest.’’ The group is asking West Oxfordshire District Council not to allow more retail outlets to convert into homes, he said, and would oppose any change of use for the historic NatWest building.
Florence Sibourd, who runs French boutique Devernois, said: “It is not good for the town. If there are fewer services in the town, it means less footfall for retailers.
“We are all worried. I am starting to look at other places because I don’t know what will happen if everyone closes down.’’ Chris Pomfret, of rural group buying organisation Community Buying unLimited, said his clients had put petitions in village shops and in Woodstock.
He said: “Everyone is signing. Other communities have lost their banks and it’s not good news. Businesses have lost money and vulnerable people are left out. It’s important that people get excited because it won’t be long before Barclays closes.’’ He has written to his local MP, Prime Minister David Cameron, and to the Duke of Marlborough.
The bank has told customers they can pay cash or cheques into the Post Office under a special arrangement starting at the end of the year.
But Gordon Hollis, of the Royal British Legion, said the Post Office was small and often had long queues, which disabled and elderly people found difficult.
“A lot of our members live in villages like Wootton, Stonesfield, Combe or Bladon. They have nothing in those places so to close this bank is the last straw.’’ RBS spokeswoman Sarah Binnie said: “More and more of our customers are using alternative ways to bank with us, such as online and telephone banking, or using their mobile phone. As a result, we’ve seen the number of people using the branch fall by almost 30 per cent over the last few years.’’
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