TRADERS in New Brighton say NatWest's plan to close a branch in the town this week will be a "devastating blow" for business.

A fall in user numbers is behind the banking group's decision to close the doors of its outlet in Victoria Road on Friday.

NatWest has also announced it will be closing its Tranmere branch in November for the same reason.

A protest led by Tony Pritchard, a former Conservative councillor for New Brighton, led to a petition of more than 400 signatures being handed into the bank on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Pritchard told the Globe: "We are asking NatWest to reverse this decision because it will have a devastating effect on business and shopping in the town.

"New Brighton is on the up-and-up, with business booming. The last thing we want is for a bank to close."

A spokesman for the bank said: "The number of customers using this branch has dropped by nearly 15% over the last few years as more and more of them use alternative ways of banking with us.

"The branch is only open for 24 hours a week - and only has 55 customers who use it regularly every week.

"Around 80% are within three miles of a branch and we're taking a number of measures to ensure they will still have access to banking in the area."

The bank's ATM cash machine will remain in operation.

Ian Forber has owned a greengrocer's shop two doors down from the bank since 1980.

He told the Globe: "When I first opened there were three banks in the street, Midland, Barclays and Natwest.

"Two have gone and the last is going to close. It will have a devastating impact on businesses in the road.

"They say the ATM is going to stay, but for how long? And who's going to come and top up the machine when it runs out? I can't see it being there for long.

"Natwest has not considered there customers at all. The bank is closed one day every week, which sees our business down about 25 per cent."

Gary Faulkner owns the Tackle Shop and said: "All my customers use the bank to draw money out, and the only way most of them know we're here is when they come along the street to use the the bank.

"It will certainly be bad for business if it closes."

On the impending closure of the Tranmere branch, NatWest said: "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.

”We have come to an agreement with the local Post Office so that customers can withdraw cash and check balances free of charge.

"In the coming months they will also be able to pay money in and businesses will be able to get coinage."