When the banks leave town – a banking desert in North Wales

When the banks leave town – a banking desert in North Wales

Prestatyn is a seaside town in Denbighshire, Wales – it is located on the Irish Sea coast, to the east of Rhyl and has a population of 19 thousand which is often swelled by visitors during holiday periods. The town gained media attention in 2021 when TSB, Barclays, RBS and HSBC all closed their branches and took with them the last remaining free to use ATM’s left on Prestatyn’s High Street – creating a banking desert.

In time, the modern former Barclays building became a florist. RBS transformed into the Tu Mondo restaurant with tell tale brickwork showing that an external ATM had been taken away – that said good use of the vault door has been made.

When I visited Prestatyn the former HSBC building remained to let but some work was being done to the accessibility ramp. And whilst the former TSB is closed a sign on the door states that TSB are still ready to help – the window is also doubling up promoting a visiting fun fair to the town.

Not surprisingly a North Wales high street where shoppers couldn’t withdraw cash became a political issue and a public campaign was soon started by local MP James Davies. The MP said that “Cash is still important for many residents and companies, especially the independent businesses in Prestatyn town centre, and the new machine at the Principality building society is extremely welcome” he also stated that he was confident it will be well-used and he planned to continue his efforts to secure a new banking hub for the town.

There were early signs of success for the MP when, in May ’22, a free to use ATM being installed in the High Street by the Principality Building Society. It joined other ATMs at the Prestatyn Convenience Store and just round the corner from the High Streetat the Meriden Road Post Office, which offers basic banking services. Also following their departure of traditional full service banking – Barclays Bank and Lloyds have opened community banking sites in the town.

The community banking service is based at the library just off the High Street. It is a cashless facility established to provide help with banking queries, support with financial difficulty and advice on digital banking. So far so good but what about James Davies MP’s promise to continue his efforts to secure a new banking hub for the town?

Well, in November 2022 LINK, the operator of the UK’s ATM network, announced that four more communities across the UK had been confirmed as locations for banking hubs – this announcement included Prestatyn. If you’ve not come across them before Banking Hubs are similar to traditional bank branches but the spaces are shared amongst participating banks.

They consist of a counter service operated by Post Office staff, where customers of any bank can withdraw and deposit cash, make bill payments, and carry out regular banking transactions. In addition, they have private spaces where customers can speak to someone from their own bank about more complex issues, with staff from different banks available on different days.

When I visited Prestatyn it wasn’t clear where the Banking Hub would be located – would it be sited in one of the former bank branch buildings? Or would an alternative building in the town be sourced? Well, Cash Access UK have now confirmed that Prestatyn’s new Banking Hub will be based at the former HSBC branch on the High Street and building work is now underway to convert the site to a Banking Hub like the one I recently visited in Rochford Essex – when it opens it will be the first Banking Hub to open in North Wales.

I guess I’ll have to return to the town and see the former bank branch brought back to life and experience for myself banking restored on this North Wales High Street.

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