CONCERNS are mounting over the loss of banking facilities from Whitehaven’s high street – as a bank building goes up for rent ahead of closing.

Halifax will shut its branch on King Street and Roper Street on April 9 and the building is now available to let.

It is one of a number of banks to depart from the town’s high street in recent years with NatWest, HSBC and Barclays also closing.

Halifax has blamed the branch closure on a fall in branch visits as customers choose to bank online instead.

Charles Maudling, chairman of Whitehaven and District Chamber of Trade, said he believes banks are pushing customers into online banking.

He said: “It's a shame the banks are or have closed. The banks themselves have pushed customers into Internet banking for a few years and now say they see fewer footfall. They instigated it.  

“To replace them, we should push for a banking hub like Maryport and other towns have. We still have the Cumberland,  Santander and TSB.

“Customers whose banks are closing could switch to them if they wished.  When I’m shopping or banking I would never use self-checkout. I always use the tills to keep staff in jobs.”

Edwin Dinsdale, who represents Whitehaven Central South on Whitehaven Town Council, said: “The number of empty banks in Whitehaven is a real concern.

“I do have a lot of sympathy with the elderly and people with disabilities who do not use online banking and desperately need that additional one-on-one banking service.

“I like the idea of a banking hub - Mark Jenkinson set one up in Maryport and I would like to know more about this initiative.

“The last thing our town needs at this moment in time is another empty building. It would be great to see somebody come forward with an idea to keep the building open as a new business.”

Josh MacAlister, the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Whitehaven and Workington, "Whitehaven's location, history and architecture mean that it should be thriving - we should be the Whitby of the West. But the town is in decline and it's now at risk of becoming a banking desert too.

“As the local MP, I'd champion rejuvenation of the town and a Labour government will accelerate the roll out of ‘banking hubs’ as part of plans to support small businesses.

“I requested a review of 'access to cash' in Whitehaven last year, and have already pushed for a banking hub for the town. But the Tories are letting us down by only rolling out a tiny number of hubs and by insisting that all existing banks must shut before they step in."

Andrew Johnson, the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Whitehaven and Workington, said: "Having used the Whitehaven branch since I first starting banking with the Halifax back in 1997 I know what a loss it is to the town, especially for those who prefer doing their banking in person.

“The loss of this branch and other banks is yet more reason why we should encourage the establishment of banking hubs, like the one in Maryport, and also why we need to increase footfall and convert empty retail units into other uses like residential and leisure to create vibrant town centres.

“It's also why we need to fully back projects like the new coal mine, which will create new jobs and bring investment into Whitehaven, as well as continue to promote the town as a key tourist destination."