No reprieve for public loos?

Opposition Conservative councillors have expressed outrage at the sudden closure of five public toilets in Bath and Peasedown St John.

Liberal Democrat-run Bath and North East Somerset Council has announced that from today ( Monday, July 14th), five public toilets in and around Bath are to close with immediate effect.

The public toilets in Larkhall.
The public toilets in Larkhall.

The five toilets, which had previously been given a stay of execution from the Council’s closure plan, are located in:

· Larkhall Square;
· High Street in Weston;
· Dominion Road, Twerton;
· Bradford Road, Combe Down;
· Greenlands Road, Peasedown St John.
The closure of the five toilets comes amid on-going controversy over plans by the Council’s contractor Healthmatic to reduce the number of toilet cubicles at the remaining public toilets as part of planned refurbishments.

Conservative councillors are demanding urgent answers from the Council over the reason for the sudden closure, as it had been agreed at the authority’s budget meeting in February that money would be allocated to enable the toilets to remain open for a further year whilst alternative options were being investigated.

Conservative Group Leader Cllr Tim Warren said:

“This demonstrates that just how much to Council isn’t listening to local people. Residents are understandably angry at the sudden nature of these closures, which have taken place without any consultation or prior warning.

“As part of the Council’s budget, agreed in February, additional funding was put back into public toilets to allow them to remain open for another year whilst alternative options were considered.

“Instead the Lib Dems have reneged on this and ploughed ahead with the toilet closures before alternative provision has been agreed and put in place.

“We are demanding answers from the Council as to why this sudden closure has happened, which goes against the spirit of what was in the Council’s budget.”

Councillor Colin Barrett (Cons), who represents Weston village, said:

“People in Weston are outraged by this sudden closure of our public toilet. We feel like we have been totally misled and let down by the Council. Even I, as the local councillor, wasn’t warned about this.

“Over the past year I’ve been involved in negotiations with Tesco which have seen the company agree to include public toilet provision within their revamped Weston store. But as Tesco is at the other end of the High Street to the current public toilets, I believe that residents deserve to be consulted on whether they feel this to be a reasonable alternative before the existing toilets are closed down.

“What’s even more concerning is that the Council clearly still has no real idea what it will do with the toilet block. We certainly do not want an empty derelict toilet block blighting our High Street.”

Meanwhile B&NES says the Council’s contract with Healthmatic Ltd will provide cleaning and management services for 15 years, and means that 15 public toilets in parks, play areas, green spaces and key transport hubs will remain open.

Improvements works have been completed at Monmouth Street in Bath city centre and at Odd Down Park & Ride, with the modernised facilities already receiving positive feedback from residents. Work on facilities at the Sandpits play area and Two Tunnels cycle path in Oldfield Park are underway and improvements to the remaining toilets will take place over the summer and autumn.

However, in order to deliver the improvements within the budget available the Council has reluctantly confirmed that from today (July 14) it has to close some public toilets.

Cllr David Dixon (Lib Dem, Oldfield), Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “We have to get the balance right between offering high quality, well placed public conveniences and making sure we have an affordable proposition for local taxpayers for the long-term future of these facilities. In accordance with a Council resolution, we kept the toilets open whilst we were exploring alternatives.

“We have been trying to work with local communities and businesses to look at options for providing facilities in these locations, but no concrete ideas have been forthcoming so unfortunately we have been forced to confirm the closing of five public toilets. However, in three of the five locations, there are on-going discussions with third parties about alternative solutions for the longer-term.”

This affects the public toilets as follows:

• Larkhall – discussions about converting the building into a shop, with one cubicle available for public use, are ongoing. The fountain memorial will be retained as it dates back to the early 1900s.
• Dominion Road, Twerton – we are in discussions with a local charity shop that wants to use the building as storage, on the condition that they provide one toilet cubicle for public use.
• Bradford Road, Combe Down – this will be discussed further as part of a community consultation by social housing provider, Curo, whose aim is to re-provide new facilities as part of the Foxhill redevelopment;
• Greenlands Road, Peasedown St John – this will be demolished to make way for extra spaces in the well-used car park.
• High Street, Weston – we will prepare for other Council use of the building, or commercial rental or sale of the property.