A regional building society that is committed to finding innovative ways to maintain and enhance its presence on high streets across the North East, North Yorkshire and Cumbria has announced that it plans to provide a new community branch in Hawes, North Yorkshire, which is facing the withdrawal of the last bank in town.
Newcastle Building Society has announced it is in discussions with the Hawes community to launch a community branch for local people based in the Upper Wensleydale Community Office.
The proposed move is part of a wider strategy that is seeing the building society create a step change in how it delivers its services to towns and communities, including re-imagining its locations and adapting its approach to suit local needs, while increasing its branch network at a time when many banks and building societies are reducing their High Street presence. It is part of a long term strategy of commitment to the provision of face to face local financial services and financial advice across its region. Hawes is the first of a number of additional, creative new locations Newcastle Building Society expects to announce this year.
Remote and deeply rural Hawes has become renowned for its self-reliance and community grit. In the face of the withdrawal of a raft of local services, under the leadership of Hawes resident and Independent North Yorkshire County Councillor, John Blackie, the town has over the past 15 to 20 years, become a symbol for how towns and high streets can transform and thrive in the face of changing times and funding challenges. The town boasts comprehensive and timely bus services, a library, police station, community petrol station, Post Office and Information Centre, run largely with the help of a team of 70 volunteers, from the Upper Dales Community Office just off the Market Place.
Attractive civic floral displays in this community belie the hive of activity and network of co-operation that channels the determination of the town’s residents and businesses, led by Councillor John Blackie, who had a vision and a drive to ensure Hawes maintained local services against the odds.
The arrival of Newcastle Building Society will be another marker of positive progress for the town, bringing access to friendly, face to face banking services, alongside financial advice for rural communities, and additional local employment opportunities. The Society’s branch will be located at the heart of the town’s information and services in the Upper Wensleydale Community Office.
Andrew Haigh, chief executive at Newcastle Building Society, said:
“We share the same core values with the town of Hawes, including a belief in the importance of taking action to create positive change. As a building society we believe in the role of the high street at the heart of our communities and have been working hard and investing significantly in delivering a network of modern, branches across our region and in thinking creatively about how we can add value to local communities. This is at the heart of our strategy in growing a bright and sustainable future hand in hand with local people and we are thrilled to be planning our move into the beautiful town of Hawes.”
Councillor John Blackie said:
“We wholeheartedly welcome the arrival of Newcastle Building Society who will fully complement our existing range of services, delivered locally for the benefit of the local communities in the Upper Dales. The news of the opening of their community branch will offset the feeling of being left in isolation from financial services and advice that was set off by the impending loss of the last Bank in town.”
He added: “I must thank North Yorkshire County Council as owner of the community office for also welcoming Newcastle Building Society. The Council see the great benefits of having the Society set up in Hawes. Indeed the news is already creating an air of excitement everywhere and there is a discernible buzz spinning around the town.”
Alongside maintaining and growing the town’s services, the Councillor’s next vision is for remote Hawes to become the example for The Good Life and how to grow old gracefully with the support of appropriate community services.
The Government’s recently announced High Street Task Force would do well to consult with John Blackie on how leadership and visionary thinking can provide a force for positive change in our towns.