BARCLAYS bank is to close its Alton branch at 42 High Street permanently on Friday (August 13).

It follows a decision to close Alton’s branch in May, a move described at the time as "a blow to customers and to the High Street" by East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds.

By the end of 2021, Barclays will have closed 650 branches across the UK since January 2015.

Barclays listed four "main reasons" for the Alton branch closure earlier this year:

* The number of counter transactions has gone down in the previous 24 months, and additionally 87 per cent of branch customers also use other ways to do their banking such as online and by telephone

* Customers using other ways to do their banking has increased by 11 per cent since 2015

* In the past 12 months, 18 per cent of this branch’s customers have been using nearby branches

* Barclays identified that only 117 customers use this branch exclusively for their banking.

MP Damian Hinds added the closure "is a reflection of how banking has changed, with few transactions now happening in branches", adding it was "something that has happened or is happening in many other towns too".

Mr Hinds continued: "I sought an urgent meeting with Barclays executives to discuss mitigations for affected customers. In our meeting they told me they are talking directly with individual customers, and that branch staff will be contacting anyone that they feel may need additional support.

"This is a loss too to the High Street. The building is a notable and central part of the Alton townscape. The future usage of the premises will obviously be important, but that is not yet known."

Mr Hinds added using a Post Office for Barclays transactions will be an alternative for some customers, as are the remaining Barclays branches in Farnham, Basingstoke or Petersfield.

A spokesman for the National Federation of SubPostmasters criticised Barclays for "deserting the high street in order to cut costs and increase their profits", and encouraged customers to use local Post Office branches as an alternative.

They said: "This will doubtless be disappointing to Barclays customers in Alton. However, alternative banking provision is available to local residents at post office branches nearby."

The nearest post offices to the closing Barclays bank, Alton branch are:

* Alton PO, Unit 6-7 Westbrook Walk, Alton, GU34 1HZ

* Raven Square PO, 27-28 Raven Square, Alton, GU34 2LL

* Holybourne PO, 130 London Road, Holybourne, Alton, GU34 4ES

The spokesman continued: "Each of these branches offers banking services – including deposits, free cash withdrawals and balance checks, as well as offering face-to-face access to government services, bill payment, foreign currency, travel insurance and, of course, postal services. There are currently 2,000 free-to-use ATMs installed across the UK post office network also.

"Post offices are proving vital to retaining people’s and business’s access to cash as the banks continue to desert the high street in order to cut costs and increase their profits.

"Every post office plays a vital role within the heart of the local community. Post offices provide a reliable and essential service which has continued at a high standard across the whole of the UK throughout the pandemic."