The closure of three branches of the NatWest bank in Pembrokeshire will be damaging for rural businesses and local communities, according to farming and rural groups.

The Pembroke branch is set to close on May 21 followed by Milford Haven on June 21 and Narberth on June 28.

The Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) says the move will have a detrimental effect on the towns, villages and communities the local branches served.

For livestock farmer Richard Prout, the closure of the Pembroke branch will mean a 32-mile round journey from his farm in Stackpole Cheriton to Haverfordwest to conduct his banking business.

Mr Prout has never gone down the route of online banking for his financial transactions – partly because broadband speeds were until recently unreliable and slow but also because he has concerns about cyber security.

Although he has always banked with NatWest he says he may now look at switching to a provider that retains a local branch.

“Having a branch just ten minutes away with very good staff is one of the main reasons why I have stayed with them,’’ said Mr Prout.

He says he does have the option of paying in cheques at the Post Office in Pembroke once the NatWest branch closes in May but for all other business he must drive to Haverfordwest, which can take 40 minutes one way at busy times.

“Whenever I went into the bank in Pembroke it was always very busy so I don’t believe it is being closed because there aren’t enough customers using it,’’ said Mr Prout.

The FUW has expressed concern that ongoing bank closures is contributing to rural depopulation.

“If the problem of rural depopulation is not addressed with some urgency it could have severe consequences for our rural communities and with that also our rural economy,’’ said the union’s president, Glyn Roberts.