courtesy of Weston, Worlde, & Somerset Mercury – Monday, April 2, 2012
by Charlotte Richardson, Chief Reporter
THOSE desperate to spend a penny could soon be faced with the prospect of having to pay for the privilege in North Somerset’s public toilets – or see the facilities close for good.
The council is looking to persuade town and parish councils or private individuals to run the conveniences in order to save cash.
The authority is hoping to save £400,000 by transferring its responsibilities for running toilets across the district from 2013/14.
The proposal, which is contained in North Somerset Council’s budget papers, suggests passing them over to parish or town councils, letting them as part of concessions so, for example, someone running a seafront café would also run the toilet, or closing them altogether to achieve the saving.
Although the authority says it is ‘far from inevitable’ that charges could be introduced, North Somerset councillor Mike Bell says there is a danger the public could end up with an ‘unfortunate’ choice of losing even more public toilets or have public toilets where fees apply.
He said: “No concessionaire is going to want to run expensive toilets for nothing and will at least want to cover their costs. So where the toilet is kept, we could see charges of 20p or more. Tourists, those with young children, older people, pregnant women, people with disabilities – they will all have need of an accessible and clean public toilet. Closing more or asking people to pay is simply wrong. We already have scandalously high parking charges on the seafront and in the town centre. The prospect of on-street parking charges is looming. Now we will be asking people to pay to spend a penny too – that is if they can find a public toilet that is not boarded up or demolished. It sends the wrong message and will harm our tourist industry and our economy. North Somerset Council must think again on this, consult widely and put the interests of residents and visitors before its bottom line.”
There are currently 29 public toilets across North Somerset, 15 in Weston, with only three left around the seafront. A North Somerset Council spokesman said: “We are looking at a number of options at the moment and have been having discussions with town and parish councils. Those discussions are ongoing and no decisions have been reached yet.”
A few years ago Birnbeck Road, Carlton Street and the Uphill beach toilets were closed and over the years many of the seafront and town centre ones have also been shut.