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Uncertain future for former Britannia Building Society premises in Leek

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: March 26, 2014

By Leslie Jackson

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COMMUNITY leaders are looking to the future use of a landmark building in Leek after the Co-operative Bank's decision to abandon the property.

However, Tesco has already scotched rumours that it intends to redevelop the Britannia House site in Cheadle Road.

The Co-op last week announced it is to relocate its remaining 300 staff at Britannnia House over the road to its sister building Newton House.

Both were the home of Britannia Building Society ahead of its takeover by the Co-operative Group in 2009.

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Leek South county councillor Charlotte Atkins said: "I am relieved that there are no further job losses, but I hope that this is not the start of the Co-op pulling out of Leek because that would be a disaster for the local economy and for local job seekers.

"I would like to see a mixed development on the site with affordable homes for Moorlands families and units for small businesses."

Leek town mayor John Fisher said the Co-operative Bank's decision to leave Britannia House was a "sad day" for the town.

He said: "This has not come as a great surprise. I am glad the Co-operative Bank will still have a sizeable presence in the town and will remain a significant employer.

"I now hope the premises will be well marketed and another sizeable employer will take over the building."

Staffordshire Moorlands MP, Karen Bradley said: "Hopefully this news will put an end to all the uncertainty surrounding the Co-op in the Moorlands and we can now get back to business as usual after a very turbulent time.

"Our priority now should be to find good tenants to move into Britannia House to make sure that the surrounding area keeps its vibrancy and acts as a magnet for new jobs."

Social network sites have been rife with speculation that the site could become a Tesco.

Sainsbury's has already moved into the former Churnet Works in Macclesfield Road, while the Co-operative food store in Buxton Road is shortly to become a Waitrose.

However, a spokesman for Tesco told the Post & Times: "We're not looking at this particular building but are grateful to those who would like to see a Tesco."

The news of Britannia House closure comes after plans were submitted for the Cornhill area of the town by Barnfields Hughes Ltd to build more than 200 houses, a pub, railway station, marina and industrial unit off Sunnyhills Road.

Land has also been left for a bypass, which when completed would run from Newcastle Road to Cheadle Road near to Britannia House.

Staffordshire Moorlands District Council has been looking to create a bypass and business park on the land between Britannia House and Barnfields. Leader of the authority Sybil Ralphs said: "We as an authority hope to work with the Co-operative Bank to get the best possible outcome for Leek and the Moorlands. I also hope this now means will be no further redundancies."

In its statement concerning Britannia House, the Co-operative Bank said: "Following a review of our two premises in Leek, we have taken the decision to base all colleagues working in the town in our building at Newton House and to exit the Britannia House site. This decision has been taken to ensure that the bank is making best use of its office space in Leek.

"Approximately 300 colleagues will move to the Newton House building over the coming months. This will have no impact on our customers. We will be working closely with the local authority regarding potential options for the future of the site.

"Leek remains an important site to our business and is the centre of excellence for our mortgages and savings operations."

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that The Co-operative Bank needs to raise another £400 million to balance its books.

The bank stated there were signs of stabilisation in its credit book, but continuing root and branch reviews of processes, procedures and documentation have yielded further conduct and legal issues.

The bank state that losses for the year are expected to be between £1.2 and £1.3 billion.

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