Best-selling writer Amanda Owen has ventured down from the hills to officially open Newcastle Building Society’s new branch in the iconic Yorkshire Dales town of Hawes.

Amanda, author of the Yorkshire Shepherdess series of books and star of Channel 5’s Our Yorkshire Farm programme, cut the ribbon at the Society’s new community branch in the Upper Wensleydale Community Office in the town’s Market Place as part of its official opening event.

She was joined as guest of honour at the event by Sir Joseph Pilling chairman of the Hawes Upper Dales Community Partnership, and Jill McMullon, chair of Hawes & High Abbotside Parish Council and partner of the late North Yorkshire County Councillor John Blackie, who was instrumental in bringing the Society to Hawes when the town was about to be left without any local banking facilities.

Cllr Blackie worked closely with the Society’s senior team to develop ideas for how face-to-face financial services might best be provided in the town and identified the Community Office as the most appropriate location for the new community branch, through which three new jobs have now been created.

The project has been developed as part of a wider Society strategy for creating a step change in how it delivers its services to different towns and communities, including re-imagining its locations and adapting its approach in places such as Hawes to suit local needs.

It is more than two thirds of the way through an ambitious branch improvement programme which involves work on new or improved facilities being carried out in every part of its existing branch network and new branches being opened in a number of locations across the North East and North Yorkshire.

Tim Larmour, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Hawes branch, said: “The town really turned out to welcome Amanda and remember John at our opening event, and it’s wonderful to be able to welcome so many people into the new branch.

“This is a real landmark project for the Society in a truly iconic location, and it’s proof of our continuing commitment to enhancing and upgrading a modern branch network that sits right at the heart of our operations.”

Stuart Miller, customer director at Newcastle Building Society, added: “Providing easy access to face-to-face financial services and advice in innovative ways is a key part of the contribution we make to the long-term sustainability of vibrant communities like Hawes.

“John Blackie’s drive and commitment was absolutely central to making this project a reality – we think he would like what’s been created in the community that he championed for so long and he was very much in everyone’s thoughts on our official opening day.”