Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Bank to sell six Northern Ireland branches

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.

Belfast Telegraph

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