Members of a growing community garden project in a Northumberland town are feeling flush thanks to a four-figure grant from the North East’s biggest building society.

Earlier this year, the Wooler Community Food Garden moved to a new larger site in the town which offers 24 allotment plots and 20 raised beds for local people of all ages to use, almost all of which were snapped up immediately.

The new garden is around half a mile from the nearest accessible public toilet, which led the committee to look at how they might provide a toilet on a site which has no access to running water or sewerage.

A fully-accessible, composting “Eco-Loo” equipped with solar-powered lights was identified as the best option – and now, a £3,000 grant provided by Newcastle Building Society through its new community branch in Wooler’s Cheviot Centre has enabled the group to purchase and install it.

Bill Eugster, who set up the project when he moved to Wooler ten years ago, says: “The new garden has been a real lifesaver over the last few months, enabling many of our members to get some exercise and time out in the fresh air and sunshine in a safe environment, and we’re looking forward to seeing the fruits of everyone’s labours as the summer progresses.

“Moving here has helped us increase the number of local people who can be part of the project, but we were also keen that being further away from the nearest public toilets would not be a time restriction on gardening together, as this is important if you’re planning on spending a full day working on your plot.

“Installing our own facilities was always part of the plan for the move, but the lack of a mains connection meant we needed to be creative in how we did so – and having seen a similar toilet on another site, we decided this was the way to go.

“Our members have painted the toilet to help it blend in with the surrounding environment and we’re now looking at adding a hardstanding path up to it to ensure its accessible to wheelchair users all year round.

“This is a big purchase for a small community group like ours and the generous support we’ve had from Newcastle Building Society has enabled us to put the toilet in place far more quickly than would otherwise have been possible.”

Siobhan Younger, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Wooler branch, adds: “We’ve had a really warm welcome into Wooler since officially opening our new branch here back in February and we’re very pleased to be giving back to the community by supporting such a highly-valued local project.”

The grant has been provided by the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which was set up to offer grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also contributed over £1.8m in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Society also made a £100,000 contribution to the £1m appeal set up by the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation for its Coronavirus Recovery and Response Fund.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.