A BANKING hub has been proposed for an East Lancs town which was deserted by its last high street name last year.

LINK - the cash access network - has confirmed it is currently looking for premises in Darwen to host financial services.

In February 2022 Lloyds shut the doors on its Duckworth Street branch, blaming a dwindling number of visitors.

Bosses at Santander, also in Duckworth Street, had already announced they were pulling out in 2021 but this was the latest in a steady stream of departures.

HSBC Darwen, in The Circus, closed in September 2012 and is now home to Sunbird Records and Grizzlers.

The former NatWest Bank in Market Street, axed in 2016, has been partly converted for residential usage and has been mooted as a restaurant before now.

But after lobbying by Darwen's MP, Sir Jake Berry, LINK is looking to identify a location for a banking hub which would offer basic counter services - and financial advice from staff working for specific banks on a regular basis.

Once a site is identified, the Darwen hub would follow similar operations at Brixham in Devon, Cambuslang in Lanarkshire, Cottingham, in Yorkshire's East Riding, Rochford in Essex and Troon, Ayrshire.

Sir Jake said: "This is brilliant news for everyone who lives, works and shops in Darwen.

"The lack of banks has been a real problem for our local businesses as well as some of our older residents who struggle with online banking.

"I have been working hard to secure a solution to this issue and I am delighted that by working together with LINK we have been able to secure this much-needed banking hub for Darwen.”

Nick Quin, LINK's financial inclusion head, added: "We’re really pleased to confirm today’s recommendation.

"Access to cash and face to face banking services are still vital to millions of people.

"We’re really pleased that Sir Jake Berry contacted us and we look forward to the opening of the hub.”

The announcement follows moves within the banking industry, ratified in 2021, to identify places, following branch closures, which still require cash services.

LINK officials say hubs are 'shared banking spaces' which are similar to a traditional bank branch, but available to everyone.

An official added: "The hub will consist of a counter service operated by Post Office employees, where customers of any bank can withdraw and deposit cash, make bill payments and carry out regular banking transactions.

"In addition, there will be private spaces where customers can speak to community bankers from their own bank for more complicated matters that require specialist knowledge or privacy.

"The banks will be working on a rotating basis, so there will be staff from different banks available on different days."

It is hoped that the Darwen hub, which would be supported by the likes of Barclays, HSBC, NatWest, Lloyds, TSV, Bank of Ireland UK, Danske Bank, Nationwide Building Society, Santander and Virgin Money, will be operational in early 2024.