Hartley Wintney village leaders have slammed plans to close a vital High Street bank.

NatWest has announced it has taken the "difficult" decision to close its Hartley Wintney branch on March 10 next year.

A spokesman said the number of transactions at the branch had dropped by 16% during the past few years.

“Over our whole network, there has been a 30% drop in branch transactions since 2010, as people do their banking where and when it is convenient for them.

“Online and mobile transactions have grown by more than 200%,” the spokesman said. “We expect these trends to continue as more and more of our customers bank with us through our mobile app, by online and telephone and through our upgraded ATM network.”

The announcement has come under fire from many of those living and trading in the village, including the parish council.

Executive clerk Leah Coney said: “The parish council is very disappointed to hear the news regarding the proposed closure of NatWest Bank in the High Street.

“We know that very many residents and businesses in the village, including the parish council, are longstanding customers of NatWest and there is serious concern over the impact the closure will have.”

She added: “If people have to make alternative arrangements for banking by using other branches, then this will reduce overall footfall and trade opportunities for other retailers in the High Street, as well as causing inconvenience for personal banking customers.”

NatWest stated that when closing a branch, it takes a number of factors into account including usage and alternative ways to bank with the company locally.

The bank’s ATM will remain at the site so that customers will still be able to access their cash.

“We’ve also lifted the restrictions for all of our basic bank accounts holders so they can use any Link ATM,” added the spokesman. “We do understand that some of our customers do not use the internet or mobile phone app and prefer to be served over the counter.

“As a result, we have come to an agreement with the local post office, which is very close to the High Street branch and there are a further four post offices within a 4.6-mile radius, so customers can withdraw cash, check balances and make deposits free of charge.

“Our business customers can also now get coinage.

“We’ve advised staff and we are writing to our customers to make them aware of the closure and the different ways they can still bank with us. If customers or local businesses are concerned about how this will impact their banking, they can go into the branch where staff will be happy to discuss the alternative ways to bank with us.”