After reading of Paul's problems with trying to open a bank account (click here), I made it my mission today to find a way for us to open an account before we go.
I spent an awful long time on the phone but finally have a resolution. HSBC will open an account for us now. We'll have an account in Australia with HSBC and an account in the UK with HSBC. There is an initial fee of $200 for them to process the application but no ongoing account keeping fees.
The UK account comes with a Visa debit card and a cheque book if you want, but there is a minimum monthly deposit requirement of £500. If you don't maintain the minimum deposits the account could be downgraded to a basic account which it seems doesn't have the cheque book facility and the card provided is a basic ATM card.
We will wait until our house is sold before we open the account, but at least we know it will work out.