NATWEST has defended its decision to deny any financial institution an opportunity to take over its empty former Uppermill High Street building.
The Edinburgh-based bank insist the condition and other restrictions have been imposed because of a pledge to retain an ATM service for at least five years.
The Independent also understands the cash machine is the reason behind the delay in selling the imposing building, which closed its doors for on June 26.
“NatWest are behaving atrociously,” blasted Richard Knowles, former Mayor of Oldham who recently helped secure the future of Greenfield Post Office at alternative premises.
“They are now preventing rival banks the opportunity to buy the empty bank building and provide residents and businesses with the services of a much-needed local bank.”
Rumours of what next have kept Saddleworth guessing for more than two months.
When the building goes up for auction with a guide price of £250,000 – probably now on October 17 – future owners will be restricted with what they can do with it.
The sale prospectus states:
1) The property will be sold subject to restrictions preventing the following uses:
- •Businesses involved with money lending
- Pawnbrokers/adult sex shops
- Bookmakers or any other gambling business or outlet
- Banks/ Building Societies
- A4 users (ie bars/public houses)
A NatWest spokesman told the Independent: “Due to security staff being required to access the building to re stock the ATM there are some businesses that aren’t suitable for the premises.
“That includes a bar or restaurant as security staff would have to walk through at various times of the day which wouldn’t be appropriate if customers were in the building.
“The times of money drop offs change each day to help with making the process more secure.”
Interior remedial work to house the ATM in a separate room has been given as the reason for the withdrawal from auction on September 12 at the AJ Bell Stadium, Salford.
“This work hasn’t been completed in time but it is still intended for the building to go to auction,” confirmed the spokesman. “There hasn’t been a sale agreed in advance.”
The one-time bank is described as a “detached three storey (plus basement) town centre premises, together with an ATM that has been built in a separate room and is subject to a lease back to Natwest PLC”.
The guide also says: “The ATM machine, associated secure room and access are subject to a leaseback to NatWest Plc of for a term of 5 years at a rent of £2,000 per annum. The lease will be subject to a 3 month rent free period.”
NatWest insist the building can’t be turned into a restaurant though such establishments are usually classed as A3 users which aren’t listed under present restrictions.
“The building ought to be used now for the benefit of the community,” added Mr Knowles, “to provide a new facility such as a craft centre. But it is more likely to be sold for a conversion into flats.”
Meanwhile, shoppers and weekend revellers heading to Uppermill for the next few days shouldn’t rely on the cash machine at the former NatWest bank for money.
The ATM is currently out of action until September 15 as internal work takes place to isolate prior to the building going to auction.
NatWest community banker Paul Geary tweeted: “Vital work being carried out will be back up and running in the next 10 days. This will ensure the ATM can stay for years to come.”