A BUILDING society has announced its plans to offer more services in a town severely hit by bank closures.

Stokesley has seen its branches of Barclays, HSBC and Nat West close in recent years. It is one of just many rural towns in North Yorkshire to have its banks disappear from their high streets, causing concern among local residents, businesses and councils.

Now Newcastle Building Society has announced it will be investing in its base on Stokesley High Street as part of a multi-million pound investment programme taking place across its branch network. It will start by extending its open hours in Stokesley by introducing Saturday opening hours between 9am and 1pm.

This month North Yorkshire County Council’s corporate and partnerships scrutiny committee agreed to write to local MPs and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, as well as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, about whether banks are meeting their “social responsibilities”.

Now Newcastle Building Society has decided to pilot Saturday opening in Stokesley on a trial basis after holding a public event at The Globe community library in Stokesley earlier this year, when people highlighted their need for face-to-face financial services for both local business and personal banking.

A recent industry report found that 46 per cent of shop owners blame the loss of a local bank branch in the last three years for negatively impacting their business, while 24 per cent said it contributed to them going out of business within the last five years.

Around 36 per cent of consumers also said they would make fewer visits to their town or village once their local bank branch closed.

Stuart Miller, customer director at Newcastle Building Society, says: "The provision of face-to-face financial advice and services on the High Street is vital to supporting sustainable local communities.

"At a time when many financial institutions are closing branches in towns across the region, we remain fully committed to keeping our branch network right at the heart of both our operations and local communities.

"The strong turn out that we had to our event showed just how closely our approach chimed with Stokesley residents who work through the week and want the opportunity to speak to someone directly about their particular needs.

"We withdrew Saturday opening in Stokesley a few years ago due to a lack of demand, but the feedback we had from local people at our event and in the branch itself has been so strong and we felt that reintroducing it would benefit both ourselves and the community."