Wooler set to get building society after Northumberland town left without bank

Financial services are set to return to a north Northumberland town thanks to an innovative partnership.

Friday, 12th July 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 14th July 2019, 12:37 am
Andrew Haigh, chief executive of Newcastle Building Society, with Patrick Sheard and Tom Johnston of Glendale Gateway Trust.

Newcastle Building Society and the Glendale Gateway Trust (GGT) have agreed an intention to establish a community branch in Wooler.

The town has been without banking services since Barclays closed its branch in November 2018.

The intention of the partnership is to have a fully functioning community branch in place by the end of the year, based in the Cheviot Centre community hub that boasts tourist information services, a library and community meeting spaces.

Tom Johnston, GGT chief executive, said: “It’s a very interesting and exciting development – the first of its kind in Northumberland for the Newcastle Building Society.

“They are looking to move into communities where banks have gone and work with community organisations, occupying community spaces which help to keep the other community facilities sustainable. It will be open three days a week and people will be able to come in and deposit money.”

The GGT has been active in creating significant improvements in the town, buying up neglected buildings to create modern and attractive affordable homes, promoting rural business development, and managing a community and business centre offering small business facilities and office pods for start-up businesses to rent.

The proposed partnership with Newcastle Building Society is part of a wider picture of the Trust’s successful regeneration and improvement programme, which has already rejuvenated the high street, and delivered an effective approach to building community sustainability.

For Newcastle Building Society, the move is part of a wider strategy to create a step change in how it delivers its services to towns and communities.

Creatively re-imagining its branch locations and adapting its approach to suit local needs, while increasing its branch network at a time when many banks and building societies are reducing their high street presence, is part of a long term commitment to the provision of face to face local financial services and financial advice across its regions.

Wooler is the second in a number of additional, creative new locations Newcastle Building Society expects to announce this year. It announced a new community branch for Hawes in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, earlier this week.

Newcastle Building Society chief executive, Andrew Haigh, said: “We are convinced that the high street has an important role to play at the heart of our communities and have been investing significantly in improving our existing branch network and in thinking creatively around how we can be physically present in communities that are struggling to access the financial services they need.

“Working closely with the GGT to deliver face to face financial services and financial advice for the benefit of Wooler is part of our wider strategy that puts our emphasis on growing a bright and sustainable future hand in hand with local people.

“Alongside that we’ve been focusing on other ways we can add real value to local communities, such as our growing Dementia Friends awareness programme, which is something we are incredibly proud of. ”

Patrick Sheard, GGT chairman, said: “The Trust is committed to making life better for the people of Glendale. The current trend to move provision of services to larger, more central towns can leave rural populations such as ours feeling isolated and neglected. When the last bank closed in Wooler, residents were faced with a round trip of 40 miles to access banking services.

“We are delighted that our proposed partnership with Newcastle Building Society will bring financial services provision back within walking distance of the majority of residents.

“This move reinforces the significance of the Cheviot Centre as a community hub at the centre of life in Glendale and is a huge vote of confidence in the economic well-being of our town.”