BANKING giant Barclays has unveiled plans for a new flagship branch in Newcastle city centre.
The 8,000sqft unit across three floors would be located in the vacant former Wallis/Evans shop on the corner of Northumberland Street and Blackett Street.
It is part of the Monument Mall which is currently undergoing a major redevelopment.
Barclays hopes to relocate two of its existing three sites in the city centre to the new premises, with its Percy Street and Grainger Street branches closing.
It would retain its existing first floor branch at the Haymarket end of Northumberland Street.
The proposals will be submitted to Newcastle City Council planners today, but they could face opposition because they require a change of use application from retail to financial services.
A previous application from Barclays to expand its existing Northumberland Street premises was rejected on this basis.
Barclays hopes the current proposal will be looked upon more sympathetically, arguing that the flagship branch will have the “look and feel” of a high quality retail unit, rather than a traditional bank. It would employ up to 50 members of staff and open in the second half of 2013.
Last night Andy Wright, Barclays’ retail network regional director, said the bank was keen to invest in Newcastle and had been searching for a suitable location for several years.
It has refurbished more than 900 of its 1,600-strong branch network since 2006, including a number of new flagship branches in major cities.
Newcastle is the only remaining key location in the North without a new branch.
Mr Wright said the development would transform the experience for customers who were currently poorly served. “It is all about giving our customers ease of access with open counters and self-service facilities,” he said. Philip Chapman, Barclays Corporate real estate transaction manager, admitted the bank could face a battle in persuading planners to support the change of use bid. But he stressed: “These days banking has changed completely. We operate in a retail fashion and our stores look like any other retailer in the high street.”
He argued that, rather than harming footfall in the area, the branch was likely to boost it with some 350,000 customers expected every year.
If the plans win approval, Barclays will join TK Maxx as tenants in the mall which was bought by property group Hammerson last year.