First birthday of Newcastle Building Society branch in Hawes finally gives cause for optimism after bank closures in the Dales
Newcastle Building Society is marking the first anniversary of its opening in Hawes in circumstances few could have predicted.
In 2019, after Barclays closed their branch in the town, it was left without any financial services at all - residents even had to fight to convince Barclays not to withdraw the ATM they operated.
Newcastle Building Society had never previously had a presence in Hawes, but were approached by the Upper Dales Community Partnership, a charity working tirelessly to keep vital services in the area.
They agreed to lease space in the Hawes Community Office building, and created three jobs in the process. Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen opened the new site to great fanfare in February 2020, just weeks before lockdown, and it has had to adapt to significant changes while remaining open as an essential business.
Abbie Rhodes, manager of the Upper Dales Community Partnership, said the banking service complements the other facilities inside the building, which include a library, council contact point and a post office. The charity also runs a petrol station and bus services.
The closure of Barclays in 2019 and HSBC around 18 months earlier had been a blow for the town, especially as the next nearest HSBC branches, in Leyburn and Northallerton, have since gone on to shut as well.
"It's a very long round trip to get to a bank, so this was perfect and it's been a really mutually beneficial solution. We try to keep facilities open that we might otherwise lose - we took on the post office after the last postmaster retired in 2014."
Abbie also points out that not all of the building society's customers are elderly people suspicious of online banking - it has instead attracted a range of ages.
"You get a lot of people setting up children's accounts, and small community groups have been opening accounts for their cash reserves. For businesses, they can do basic cash deposits at the post office, but the Newcastle fills all the gaps. My partner owns a pet shop, and the advantages for a business owner are not having to travel or take a day out of work. It's ideal for them."
The three staff have been warmly welcomed - branch manager Tim Larmour lives in Skipton, one of his female colleagues is from a local Hawes family and the other has moved into the area.
"It's been a lot busier since the pandemic - people have realised that it's on their doorstep and they're using it. Around here, if you're not online, you're scuppered sometimes, but now these old farming families no longer have to make a round trip to the nearest big town.
"We want to keep as much as we can in Hawes - we've been doing a lot of support services in lockdown and we want those to be embedded permanently into our remit."
Branch manager Tim Larmour aded: “It’s definitely not been the first year in Hawes that we’d expected, but the community have been extremely welcoming and despite lockdown it’s been an incredible year.
“If anything, I feel that everything we’ve been through has helped the Society integrate into the Hawes community. We’re full of hope that as we recover from the pandemic, we’ll see the return of the dynamic town we’re all so passionate about.”