Ul­ster Bank to sell six NI branches as more cus­tomers move on­line

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - BY MARK ED­WARDS

UL­STER Bank has put six of its for­mer branches in North­ern Ire­land up for sale after it an­nounced wide­spread clo­sures ear­lier this year.

The bank an­nounced in March that it was clos­ing nine branches here due to fewer cus­tomers us­ing the prop­er­ties be­cause of the shift to dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy.

Two branches in Belfast along with branches in New­town­abbey, Gar­vagh, Kir­cub­bin and Ban­gor were put up for sale last week by the bank.

Liam Mcau­ley, from GVA NI prop­erty con­sul­tants, who is han­dling the sales, said: “These six are the branches that are owned by the bank. The other three are lease­holds.

“The ‘for sale’ boards went up in the mid­dle of last week. The phones have not stopped, there seems to be a good in­ter­est in them all at the mo­ment.

“We have had a range of peo­ple in­ter­ested — owner oc­cu­piers, de­vel­op­ers who are look­ing at a re­de­vel­op­ment an­gle and in­vestors, so a mix­ture of peo­ple.”

Mr Mcau­ley said that it would be pos­si­ble to re­de­velop some of the build­ings.

“I am sure there will be peo­ple look­ing at it from that an­gle, sub­ject to get­ting plan­ning and the nec­es­sary statu­tory con­sent,” he said.

“We ex­pect com­pet­i­tive bid­ding on most, if not all of them.”

The banks for sale in­clude a two-storey prop­erty on Boucher Road in Belfast, a ter­race com­mer­cial build­ing on the Wood­stock Road in Belfast, a two-storey build­ing on Monkstown Road in New­town­abbey, a listed three-storey build­ing on Main Street in Gar­vagh, Co Lon­don­derry, a two-storey prop­erty on Main Street in Kir­cub­bin and a four-storey build­ing in Main Street in Ban­gor. The other branches that have closed are the Mil­len­nium Fo­rum in Lon­don­derry and the New­town­breda and Antrim Road branches in Belfast, which were all leased by the bank.

A spokesman for Ul­ster Bank con­firmed that each of the branches have now been closed.

Sean Mur­phy, Ul­ster Bank di­rec­tor, an­nounc­ing the clo­sures ear­lier this year, said: “Bank­ing has changed rad­i­cally in re­cent years. More and more of our cus­tomers are us­ing dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy and fewer are us­ing our branch net­work.

“Clos­ing a branch is never an easy de­ci­sion and one we do not take lightly. Recog­nis­ing that cus­tomers ex­pect dif­fer­ent ser­vices from their bank, we con­tinue to in­vest in a range of chan­nels to im­prove ac­cess in a sus­tain­able way, such as our Bank on Wheels, 24/7 tele­phone bank­ing and our ser­vices avail­able through the Post Of­fice.”

It comes after First Trust an­nounced ear­lier this year it was shut­ting 15 branches across North­ern Ire­land with the bank also cit­ing cus­tomers shift­ing to dig­i­tal bank­ing.

The closed branches made up around half of the bank’s branch net­work here. First Trust sold off some of the branches it had shut and sought to let other build­ings out.

Speak­ing ear­lier this year, the head of First Trust, Des Moore, said the bank had seen a 40% de­cline in branch us­age in the last seven years, with mo­bile bank­ing up 117% in the last two years.

The for­mer Ul­ster Bank branch at Main Street, Ban­gor

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