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Handbridge dwellers will surely have noticed the shiny new Coop petrol station that has opened on the corner of Queen’s Park Road. You can see the blue sign as you drive over the bridge signalling convenient groceries and more importantly the addition of a free to use cash machine.

In an increasingly cashless society, new installations of these machines are rare, particularly the free ones. ATMs provide essential financial services by giving access to cash, balance and account information and are important amenities to communities.

Between December 2018 and June 2019, the UK lost ATM’s at a rate of 170 per month (source). For most of us, cash is still a widely used payment method and access to it is important for consumers. Small businesses become vulnerable to high card payment charges and potential loss of customers when competing next to brand name stores. The rise of charged ATM’s also puts the consumer at risk, leaving those without the means to travel elsewhere stuck with charges as high as £1.99 per transaction.

Those on low incomes or with limited mobility are already more likely to use cash for services such as transport. We find ourselves trapped in a battle whereas we rely less on cash and more on card or phone payments we leave the most vulnerable in our society open to these charges.

Handbridge has a varied demographic and I would like to see the addition of the Co-op to the suburb encourage a cooperative atmosphere in the community. The store itself has been welcomed by the locals, bringing with it 20 new jobs and an improved traffic flow system aimed at easing congestion on the corner of Queen’s Park Road.

Impressively, the store runs on 100% renewable energy and is providing compostable carrier bags instead of the single-use plastic variety, aligning nicely with the Plastic Free Community status that Chester was awarded last year by the marine conservation charity Surfers against Sewage (SAS).

I too welcome the Co-op to Handbridge with open arms, but I urge you to think twice when you shop there. Use the cash machine and keep it alive for the local community relying on it, and perhaps take that cash to Ernest W Edge & Son, Exsqueeze Me and Chester Beer & Wine to do your shopping once in a while.

Convenient shopping is certainly a luxury but so is a bustling high street of independents, let’s keep it that way.