IT IS the last bank in the village – and residents are not going to let it go without a fight.

Determined not to see the axe fall on the NatWest branch in Fair Oak, hundreds of villagers and businesses have joined forces to take on bank bosses.

So far more than 500 people have signed a petition to save it, while banners have been put up and leaflets handed out.

Campaigners argue that the bank is vital to the village – the only place left where they can pay in their savings and takings.

Customers are often queuing out of the door.
But bank bosses argue that the branch has seen a significant decline in numbers in recent years, with only 31 customers visiting the branch each week.

The bank, in Botley Road, opens five hours a day three days a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and according to residents opened in the 1980s.

It was one of four banks that used to operate and if it closes on July 9, as planned, residents’ nearest branches would be in Eastleigh and Hedge End.

Businesses in the area, which include a baker, pub, greengrocer and hairdressers, argue that they rely on the Fair Oak branch to pay in cash, as do elderly residents who find it difficult to travel further afield.

They say that with a growing population in Fair Oak, due to ongoing development, especially elderly accommodation, people cannot travel so far and have accused bosses of poor customer service if the axe falls.

Another concern for businesses is the fact that they will be left to take large sums of money through Eastleigh or Southampton to cash their takings.

Jason Judd, who runs the Oven Door Bakery, in Botley Road, and is spearheading the campaign, has even written to the chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland Ross McEwan, as Natwest is part of the RBS Group, appealing for him to take action.

“If this branch closes it will leave a huge gap within the community that we could possibly see grow with the current plans for massive housing development surrounding Fair Oak,” said Mr Judd.

“It would be easier to understand the mindset of RBS if this was an under-used branch in a sleepy little village, but this branch is permanently busy, often with queues out of the door.”

A NatWest spokesman said that customers were increasingly using alternative banking methods, such as online, and as a result it had seen numbers at the Fair Oak branch fall “significantly over the last few years”.

He added that NatWest was writing to customers advising them of alternative ways of banking and said that concerned customers could also get advice from branch staff.