DISABLED bank users in Duns will soon be able to carry out their custom inside the town’s branch of Royal Bank of Scotland now that work has begun on improving access to the building.
The works, due to commence yesterday, Wednesday, September 21, represent a substantial investment in the branch and a victory for the customers who have campaigned persistently over the last few years.
After growing tired of having to conduct their banking on the street and receiving less than satisfactory responses from the head offices of both RBS and Bank of Scotland, Station Court residents Morag Blaikie, Iain MacDonald and Amanda Hanlon got in touch with Borders MP Michael Moore as well as Berwickshire councillors Frances Renton and David Raw in their bid to secure disabled access to both branches.
That was back in the spring of 2009 and a meeting was set up to establish a course of action for the banks to apply for listed building consent to install ramps.
What followed was a long and drawn out process but now that work has commenced on the RBS access, Morag was happy things were taking a step in the right direction.
She told ‘The Berwickshire News’: “I’ve been campaigning for two and a half years to get improved access to both banks so I’m very, very pleased that work has now started at the Royal Bank of Scotland.
“I don’t like having to do my banking on the street so I’m looking forward to being able to go into the building itself.
“I’ve lost count of the amount of letters I’ve written on the matter- it must have been at least a dozen.”
Someone who paid tribute to Morag’s persistence was Councillor Frances Renton who said the improved access at RBS’ Market Square premises would “make a huge difference” to Morag, Iain, Amanda and other disabled customers.
“This will undoubtedly make a huge difference to Morag and many others,” she commented.
“More than anything it’s the fact they won’t have to suffer the indignity of doing their banking on the pavement any longer. That just isn’t acceptable.
“It seems like such a long time ago that we had the first meeting and looked at various options.
“There was some talk of doing something inside but in the end everyone decided a ramp outside would be the best way forward
“ I’d like to thank SBC’s planners and senior members of the roads department for all their hard work.
“So far the Bank of Scotland haven’t made any representations to us but I’m hoping this will give them a push.”
Although out of the area at the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham this week, Michael Moore also welcomed the news that the work was due to commence, commenting: “A number of my constituents contacted me about this issue and I held meetings with Frances Renton and others to urge RBS to make these changes. I am therefore glad that RBS have responded to our concerns and are now taking action.
“It is absolutely vital that people with disabilities are able to access local services and I will continue to work with the council and local businesses to improve accessibility to the disabled in this area and others.”
Personal assistants at Station Court, Carol Boyd and Barbara Goldie-Scott, said the improved access would have a massive impact as Morag, Iain, Amanda and other residents really valued their independence and wanted the same level of service as everyone else.
Carol added; “Hopefuly other shopkeepers in the town might sit up and take notice now as there are still a few shops that are very difficult for disabled people to access.”
The work outside the RBS building will see an existing layby done away with, the bus stop outside the bank moved slightly further down the street and a ramp installed.
The branch, which was built over 150 years ago, is a Grade B listed building and this, together with its age, location and design presented a number of challenges when considering the most appropriate plan to provide the wheelchair access.
Commenting on the project Hazel Anderson, Local CEO for RBS in the area said: “We are delighted that work is now beginning on enhancing access for our customers and we hope that they will find the new facility more convenient and practical.
“This project represents a major investment for the bank and demonstrates our commitment to serving rural communities.”