Bradford & Bingley is to close its former head office in Bingley town centre and move the 400 staff to its Crossflatts site – as well as losing its world-famous high-street brand name.

The news of the shutting down of the dominant town-centre building comes as the company’s Spanish owners, Santander, which bought B&B’s savings business in September, announced that the famous bowler hat logo and Bradford & Bingley name will disappear from Britain’s high street next year.

A spokesman for the nationalised mortgage bank said the Main Street site would either be sold or sub-let as a base for other businesses.

The 950 staff at the two sites have been informed about the move which is due to take place next year.

Councillor Robin Owens (Con, Bingley) said: “I had an e-mail a week ago saying that the Bradford & Bingley building would be empty, probably by Christmas.

“Between the staff they must have had a tremendous financial input into the life of the town centre.

“It is that financial input, from the point of view of the local businesses, that is going to be hard to replace.

“One of the problems is that it is an iconic building, even though it is horrible, it is iconic.

“It was purpose-built with offices in mind, so I think it would take a lot of adjustments to make use of it, except as offices.

“It will be a very difficult decision of what to do with it.

“I’m not best pleased at all. There has got to be a lot of ingenuity exercised in finding a use for the building because it will be hugely expensive to bring it down because the building doesn’t lend itself to anything other than head offices to Bradford & Bingley.”

Councillor John Pennington (Con, Bingley) said: “I think over the past period of turmoil the numbers in the old headquarters have been reduced.

“If the others are going to come out of that building it will have an impact on the town centre itself.

“But on the upside Bingley is actually doing quite well. We have got the new market that’s working three days a week and we have got the new shopping centre that was thankfully planned and financed before this financial turmoil.”

The concrete tiered building, designed to reflect the nearby Five Rise Locks landmark, opened in 1975 and was once on Prince Charles’ list of “carbuncle” buildings The spokesman said the Crossflatts site, which opened in 2004 as a new head office for the former building society, could best accommodate the remaining staff in the state-owned mortgage operation which is gradually being run down.

Those areas occupied by staff now working for Santander in the savings business would be vacated by the end of this year.

The axing of the B&B high street name follows a decision by Santander to re-name all its UK operations, including Abbey National and Alliance & Leicester. The three banking brands will all become known as Santander.

The bank is also looking for a larger site in Bingley to replace the existing branch underneath the old B&B head office building in Main Street. It is likely that the new branch will open in the 5Rise retail development now being built across the road.

The Bradford & Bingley name was created in 1964 following the merger between the Bradford Equitable Building Society and the Bingley Building Society which were both founded in 1851.

The famous brand has been synonymous with bowler hats, originally those worn by the “Mr Bradford” and “Mr Bingley” characters and more recently represented by a matrix of hats.

The re-branding comes less than a year after Santander snapped up Bradford & Bingley’s £20 billion savings business along with 197 branches and 140 agencies as part of the rescue which saw the mortgage business nationalised.

The Spanish bank paid £612 million for B&B’s savings business, which had 2.7 million customers.

Santander said it would re-brand all three banks under its global moniker by the end of 2010, although Abbey and B&B will be the first to go, between January and March next year with A&L following later in 2010.

Santander, which itself dates back to 1857, will begin introducing the Santander brand this year by changing over Abbey credit cards under the group name, as well as the commercial and corporate banking arms of Abbey and A&L, which include 20 regional banking centres.

Santander, which employs 132,000 staff in 40 countries, has owned Abbey, which as Abbey National was the first building society to become a bank in 1989, since 2004. The Abbey business has key operations centres in Bradford.

Paul Pester, head of retail banking at Bradford & Bingley, said the aim was to create a strong national high street brand to compete with the likes of Barclays.

He said the B&B name was now owned by the Government following the nationalisation of the mortgage business and had been used under licence by Santander for the branch and savings operations.

The name change was part of an integration process which had seen 1,900 jobs go across the three businesses, mainly in duplicate “back office” roles such as marketing and IT. B&B branches had moved to the Santander group IT systems over the Spring Bank holiday weekend.

Mr Pester said B&B staff had reacted positively to the re-branding plan as more customers were using the branches and deposits had risen by £1.1 billion at the end of last year He said: “When Santander bought part of Bradford & Bingley last year they didn’t buy the brand, which is owned by the Government and was licensed to Santander for use in the branch and savings business.

“Santander is re-focusing all its UK operations under the group brand name to provide customers with a single national offering alongside major names such as Barclays and Lloyds.

“This decision will not have any negative impact on jobs in the former B&B branches. In fact, we are looking at expanding the branch network, including a larger site in Bingley town centre.”

Sandy Needham, chief executive of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said the re-branding should be welcomed if it helped strengthen the Santander business which was becoming a strong brand.

She said: “What is important for the local economy and jobs is that Santander is in a position to compete effectively and measures that will make it more successful should be welcomed.” But Shipley MP Philip Davies said: “It is a very, very sad and disappointing situation. It will signify the end of 150 years of local heritage. It has always been a very good, strong brand.

“I am also slightly angry, given the Bradford & Bingley situation compared with Northern Rock. The Government has protected Northern Rock, how on earth was that allowed to continue? It angers me how Bradford & Bingley has been treated in relation to Northern Rock.”

Antonio Horta-Osorio, chief executive of Santander’s UK business, said customers would benefit from access to all of the group’s 1,300-branch network after the re-brand is complete.

e-mail: chris.holland