BARCLAYS is to close its high street branch in Southbourne, blaming a fall in customer numbers.

It says staff will have the chance to transfer to another branch when the bank closes on September 5.

The chair of the local traders’ association has urged the bank to take an interest in the future use of the building.

A Barclays spokesperson said in a statement: “The way customers undertake their banking is changing as people increasingly use online, telephone and mobile devices.

“In response to this change in customer behaviour, we must evolve our business to meet their needs.

“At Barclays West Southbourne branch, customer usage has declined by 14 per cent since 2008 and nearly three quarters of customers now regularly use alternative branches, which is why we have taken the difficult decision to close the branch on Friday, September 5.

“Our colleagues at Barclays West Southbourne have been consulted about the change and will be given the opportunity to work at a nearby branch.”

Samantha Acton, chair of Southbourne-on-Sea Business Association, pictured inset, said: “You can’t stop progress but it will be really sad to see them go from Southbourne High Street. However, I do respect that they have to make decisions.

“I just hope the next steps for that building are well thought out and to the advantage of the community and they don’t just leave an empty building or allow it to be let to a business that doesn’t complement the current mix.”

The statement from Barclays said customers could carry out everyday transactions at the Post Office less than 150 metres from the branch.

“We hope the range of alternatives including digital banking, nearby branches and Post Office access will help to ease the transition for our customers as we move out of West Southbourne,” it added.

Barclays said its average customer uses mobile banking 24 times a month but visits a branch less than twice a month.