Eastbourne shows the high street can thrive with access to cash

The seaside town of Eastbourne prides itself on being the sunniest seaside resort in the UK – with an average of over five hours of sunshine per day. But it has another claim to fame: it is the city in the country with the most banks and building societies.

Standing in the heart of Eastbourne, my head is spinning at the sight of so many banks. Am I dreaming or have I momentarily stepped back in time to a time when bank branches were a fixture in every city across the country?

No, my eyes are not deceiving me. At the top of the city Terminus road is a crossroads. A huge NatWest sits next to a Lloyds branch and faces a glass-fronted Barclays, HSBC and Metro branch.

Record: Eastbourne is the city with the most banks and building societies in the UK

Record: Eastbourne is the city with the most banks and building societies in the UK

A few doors down the same street are the Santander and Halifax branches, as well as the Nationwide and Yorkshire building companies, all crammed into a stretch of around 300 meters, roughly the same length as the famous pier from the city.

There is also a post office offering basic banking services. While most towns see banks disappearing from their main streets at the rate of 50 a month, this East Sussex seaside resort has the highest density of banks and building society branches of any town in the UK United, with nine serving its population of 100,000. The only bank in recent years to have deserted the city is TSB.

Halfway along the city pier, Helen Cooper temporarily takes care of The Candy Shop for her daughter Cara Huxley. Inside there are all sorts of seaside rocks – not just traditional Eastbourne sweets, but pizza, vindaloo and gin and tonic tastings too.

The 53-year-old says: ‘While Eastbourne attracts young families to its beaches, we have an aging population who are drawn to the beautiful sunshine.

“They come here to retire and they like to use bank branches and pay for their purchases in cash.”

A quarter of the town’s population is over 65 years old.

Helen adds: “These people don’t want to be encouraged to bank online or buy items using contactless payment. They prefer old-fashioned, face-to-face banking that they can trust.

Holidaymakers Derek and Margaret Myers are surprised by the number of bank branches in Eastbourne. The couple, both 70, traveled to town from their South Yorkshire home in Barnsley.

Derek, a retired steelworker, says: “I’m a customer of Yorkshire Bank. The staff at our local branch were lovely, but they always tried to convince us of the benefits of online banking.

“I told them it was like the turkeys were voting for Christmas. I was right. The branch closed a few years ago.

He adds: “It seems like a lottery at the moment as to which banks stay open and which close – measured less on how much they are needed but on what the banks can get away with.

“Eastbourne is such a friendly and bustling place which provides a great showcase for banks – with tourists and locals enjoying easy access to their services. This proves how important banks are in ensuring a city’s prosperity, rather than its decline. Local artist Peter Lambert is good at turning plates, juggling knives and doing amazing things on a unicycle. Indeed, he is so good that seven years ago he was a semi-finalist on ITV Britain’s Got Talent.

Peter lives in Hailsham, nine miles north of Eastbourne. He says: ‘Eastbourne may be overcrowded with banks but we have lost many nearby branches in recent years. Barclays moved out of my home town last year while NatWest and Santander locked down near Heathfield.

This means that Peter must come to Eastbourne when he wants to visit his bank (he used the bank to deposit money).

The 40-year-old adds: ‘Yes it’s great that Eastbourne has a good number of banks and building societies but let’s not forget there have been dozens of branches knocked down in nearby towns.

Derek French is a longtime campaigner for banks to maintain a presence on the nation’s high streets. He supports the idea of ​​shared branches – banking centers – in communities where all bank branches have been removed.

Vital service: Derek and Margaret Myers, on vacation from Yorkshire, were amazed by the number of banks in Eastbourne

Vital service: Derek and Margaret Myers, on vacation from Yorkshire, were amazed by the number of banks in Eastbourne

While pleased Eastbourne has retained so many of its banks, French says it highlights the crude approach banks are taking to branch closures.

“It’s a postcode lottery,” he says, “whereas the starting point should be that every city has a bank or a banking centre.” There is no logic. Eastbourne has nine while other deserving towns such as neighboring Peacehaven [see left] don’t have one.’

French says the gauge banks use to determine whether a branch should close is the number of people who visit regularly.

Too few regulars and the branch is doomed to close. Yet by using this, French says it ignores the city’s need for the bank to stay open.

He says: “Banks are manipulating branch usage figures to justify a closure. By defining a regular customer as someone who visits a branch every week for six months or more, it allows them to produce numbers that suggest the branch isn’t being used regularly enough. These statistics are completely absurd.

French is disappointed with the slow rollout of banking hubs.

Last week, The Mail on Sunday revealed that none of the ten new banking hubs announced in the past nine months have yet opened.

Only two hubs installed before last December – at Cambuslang, near Glasgow and Rochford in Essex – have so far opened, but as pilots only.

French estimates that 50 banking centers are urgently needed – with perhaps 400 nationwide to ensure that all towns have a high street banking presence.

Thirteen new hubs will be announced this week. So far this year, 433 branches have been removed or will soon be removed.

…but 25 km away, not A big bank

The bustling resort town of Peacehaven lies 16 miles west of Eastbourne. It shares the same glorious sunny coastline and chalky cliffs of South Down – but, as far as shorelines go, it might as well be a leper colony.

None of the major banks have a presence in the city – Barclays, NatWest and Halifax have all cut branches in recent years.

Only the construction company Nationwide kept its branch open.

Although one-fifth the size of Eastbourne, the town has a thriving high street comprising grocery stores, a butcher and bakery, restaurants – and no less than eight estate agents. Sales negotiator Mike Pearson, of estate agent Cubitt & West, said: ‘A bank provides a good reason for people to come and visit local stores.’

He adds: “When it closes, the ripple effect is negative for everyone.”

Resident Sarah Marx, a child psychotherapist, says: ‘There is no rhyme or reason behind the branch closures. Surely the banks could have bumped their heads and kept a branch open here in Peacehaven – even if it meant one of the nine in Eastbourne had to close.

She adds, “Every town should have a bank, and none more so than Peacehaven.”

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Eastbourne shows the high street can thrive with access to cash

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