SPECULATION is mounting over the future of a landmark building in Leek after offices formerly owned by the Britannia Building Society were emptied.
The Co-operative Bank this week reaffirmed its commitment to Leek despite shutting Britannia house, in Cheadle Road.
It comes after the Britannia was merged into the Co-operative Bank, part of the Manchester-based Co-operative Group, in 2009.
All of the business's 900 employees in the town are now based across the road at Newton House – leaving the vast Britannia House empty and up for grabs.
Now community leaders have called for the site to be used to create job opportunities – with the possibility of a cinema and bowling alley being looked at.
The building also lies next to the planned access route to the proposed Cornhill development of a marina, railway station and housing.
Leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Sybil Ralphs, who also has the responsibility for regeneration on the authority, said: "At present we are working closely with the Co-operative Group to market the property.
"It is being marketed by GVA Grimley, and part of our ongoing support is sharing information with them regarding our plans for the regeneration of the Cornhill area, including the proposed road, and the general on-going development of Leek including the provision of an entertainment complex."
At its peak the former Britannia Building Society employed more than 2,000 people in the town across the two sites.
Leek Town mayor Keith Harrison said: "This is a sad day for Leek with the closure of such a large building, but we were expecting it.
"I feel it is a disgrace the way everything has been done. Almost 60 per cent of jobs have been lost at the site.
"Now we have got to look at bringing back some of the lost jobs at the large building.
"The premises would make a perfect call centre or fit the vision for a cinema and bowling alley if a company could be found to take it on."
Leek district and county councillor Charlotte Atkins said is was vital that the Britannia House site was used to generate employment.
She said: "It has been a real concern over the loss of jobs. We must create jobs at the site.
"We do not want a warehouse, but something that offers people a future.
"The demise of jobs at the former Britannia site has meant people have had to look elsewhere other than Leek for employment. Leek is a great place to live, but people can't if they have no job."
The Co-operative Bank has told the Post & Times that it is now looking at the options regarding future use of the Britannia House site.
A spokesman said: "In March, we announced our intention to base all colleagues working in the town in our building at Newton House, and exit the Britannia House site to ensure that the bank makes best use of its office space in Leek. Colleagues are now all based in Newton House and Leek remains an important site to our business, and is the centre of excellence for our mortgages and savings operations."
The merger of Britannia Building Society and the Co-operative Financial Services was announced in April 2009.
Almost eight out of 10 staff employed by Britannia Building Society had given their full backing to the planned merger, and more than 400,000 members supported the deal.