RAM-RAIDERS destroyed part of Hampshire bank in an attempt to make off with thousands of pounds in cash.

Using a forklift truck, three men smashed their way into Lloyds Bank in Bishop’s Waltham around 3am yesterday.

The cash machine was removed, but abandoned on the pavement surrounded by rubble and smashed glass.

The truck was also dumped as the men ran from the scene onto nearby Houchin Street.

Community leaders have said that the falling number of police officers played a part in the attempted robbery after the town’s police station closed to the public more than five years ago.

A statement from Hampshire Constabulary said: “Police are investigating after a burglary at Lloyds Bank in Bishop’s Waltham.

“Just after 3am on Sunday, February 4, three men were seen to use a forklift truck to smash their way into the bank causing extensive damage.

“The ATM was removed but left on the pavement intact. The forklift was also left at the scene, blocking the road.

“Anyone with information about the incident should call 101 quoting 44180046070.”

Vice chairman of the finance, policy and resources committee at Bishop’s Waltham Parish Council, Terry Wilson, said he believed the reduction in the number of officers in the town had played a part in the incident, with the bank placed in the centre of the town.

The police station in Bishop’s Waltham closed to the public in 2012, with police community support officers placed in the town.

Cllr Wilson said: “Yes, the reduction in police officers in the town did play a part in this, I would have thought. In terms of the future, whether the PCSOs in the town need more help isn’t a question for me to answer.”

Chairman of Bishop’s Waltham Society Tony Kippenberger said: “It seems like a freak incident, and highly unusual for the town as we are normally very peaceful. I would hope this doesn’t deter people from the area, but it would appear as though this is a one-off, it’s certainly unique and where the digger is from, though I’d imagine it’s stolen, “I have no idea. Hopefully the scene is covered in fingerprints.”

Mr Kippenberger voiced concern that Lloyds could close following the incident, but Cllr Wilson said he wasn’t concerned over that due to the amount of existing customers in the town, and the homes still to be built.

Cllr Wilson added: “We have 3,000 homes in Bishop’s Waltham, and with the current local plan still to build another 500, I wouldn’t worry about that. We are very fortunate to have two banks in the town.

“This was clearly planned, and I have never seen anything like it in my 30 years within the town.”