HSBC'S decision to close its Northallerton and Richmond branches have been branded 'appalling' and 'a great shame' for the towns.

The bank announced this week that 82 branches will close across the country between April and September this year, including those in Northallerton High Street and Richmond Market Place.

Sites will start shutting their doors permanently from April 23, with approximately three closing each week until the end of September.

HSBC said the Covid-19 pandemic has seen a greater shift to online banking, although the bank insisted the closures were not entirely related to the lockdowns and restrictions.

Caroline Dickinson, Hambleton District Council ward member for Northallerton South, was disappointed about the move and said that online-only banking is not an option for everyone.

She said: “I know there is the technology and everything like that, but I get so frustrated when there is no bank on the high street where you can go and talk to people.

“When you are told to go online it is very frustrating for a lot of people, especially older people, when they are used to going into a bank.

“My concern is for people that want to speak to somebody if they have a problem – obviously at the moment face-to-face isn’t available, but normally, if you have a problem, sitting face-to-face with somebody can really help.

“I know everything has gone online with the technology that we have, but you have to look at how people feel about that, whether they have the ability to be able to go online.

“Not everybody has smart phones and laptops and things like that.”

The Northallerton branch closure comes against a backdrop of more positive outlooks for the town, with the Treadmills leisure development forging ahead and the recent announcement that the council secured £6m from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund to invest in the town centre.

Cllr Dickinson said: “I just think this bank closure news is a great shame for Northallerton High Street, especially when there are so many plans for it.

“With the funding from the Future High Streets Fund I am looking forward to a vibrant market town, not losing things from it.

“We have got enough empty buildings in Northallerton High Street without the bank going as well and you just keep wondering which ones are going to go next.”

Cllr Dickinson also expressed her fears that the push for digital-only services will lead to people ‘living in a world where no one talks to anyone anymore’ and this concern was shared by Richmond ward councillor Clive World who said he was ‘absolutely appalled’ by the closure of his town’s Market Place branch.

He said: “It is in the centre of the Market Place, it has just had a new cash machine put in and when the pandemic finishes we are going to have a lot tourists coming into town.

“We are celebrating the 950th anniversary of the castle and people who come in will be looking for places for cash.

“We are left with one bank which is at the bottom of the Market Place which senior citizens, if they manage to get down there, some find it difficult to get back up the hill.

“I read that you can use the Post Office (for some banking services), the people at the Post Office are superb, absolutely spot on, but anybody who sees the queue outside will realise that the Post Office is too small and I think they are going to have a job coping with everybody.”

Jackie Uhi, HSBC UK’s head of network, said the Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised the need for the changes that the bank is making.

She added: “This is a strategic direction that we need to take to have a branch network fit for the future.

“Making sure we have a sustainable branch network is essential to us, and decisions to close branches are not taken lightly.

“By ensuring we have the most suitable branch format in each specific local market that we serve, we will ensure that we are in good shape to meet the challenges ahead.”