Spend a Penny: The improvements and investment YOU want to see in Northumberland's public toilets

We are into the final stretch of the school year, with the summer holidays just around the corner.

Thursday, 30th June 2022, 4:55 am

As Northumberland families make the most of the county’s beautiful coastline and green spaces – along with visitors to the area – there will be an increase in the number of people looking for somewhere to “spend a penny”.

The Covid pandemic inspired many to take advantage of attractions and events closer to home.

To that end, the demand for accessible and clean public toilets is greater than ever.

With one of Northumberland’s busiest times for visitors almost here, we sought the views of the Gazette readers on the county’s toilet facilities.

Which areas need more facilities? And where do existing toilets need to be improved?

Dozens of readers got in touch to share their views – with calls for improvements across the county.

Alnwick and Amble were popular choices for an upgrade, with Berwick “desperately” in need of some TLC, according to the Gazette’s readers.

Readers have been sharing their views on where they would like to see public toilets improved across Northumberland.

Reader Marie Denise Ashby added: “It’s no good promoting tourism in Northumberland if the facilities are inadequate.”

A three-year programme of improvement and refurbishment work for Northumberland’s public toilets was approved as part of the county council’s budget earlier this year.

The £1.35million plans will modernise, refurbish and repair existing facilities at varying degrees, with accessibility improvements worth £50,000 taking place across all of the county’s toilets.

Speaking at the time the proposals were announced, Councillor John Riddle, Cabinet Member for Local Services, said: “It’s very important we invest in improvements to these vital facilities which we know are valued by both residents and visitors – at a time when some areas are closing their toilets.

The public toilets in The Shambles in Alnwick town centre.

“We want everyone to have access to top quality facilities, and these refurbishments will ensure people have access to modern, improved and clean toilets throughout the county."

Northumberland County Council is responsible for 54 public toilets.

Around £920,000 of the approved funding will go towards improving toilet facilities in Northumberland’s main towns, while £500,000 will be spent on essential refurbishment at all remaining facilities.

Work in the county’s main towns will include backlog maintenance, replacement of old equipment where required and, in some cases, new cubicles and internal walls.

Public toilets in Alnmouth.

Meanwhile, accessibility improvement works will feature better signage and lighting and different colour contrasts to benefit those with dementia, incontinence or other sensory impairments.

According to plans released at the start of 2022, which have since been approved as part of the county council’s budget, the facilities set for full refurbishment and modernisation are:

Alnmouth

Alnwick, Greenwell Lane

Alnwick, The Shambles

Amble, TIC

Amble, Broomhill

Ashington, Station Road

Beadnell

Berwick, Castlegate

Berwick Spittal

Blyth, Keel Row

Toilets at Blyth Market Place will be demolished as part of the Future High Street programme, but it’s anticipated that new, modern facilities will be provided as part of this work.

Craster

Fountain Head, Seaton Sluice

Hexham, Wentworth car park

Hexham, St Marys Wynd

Haltwhistle

Plessey Woods Country Park

Warkworth Beach

Toilet facilities at Wooler will be upgraded through separate Borderlands funding, the council said.