Inconvenient! Public toilet closures to go ahead

December 19 2017

BRISTOL City Council has agreed plans to make £400,000 of savings by cutting the provision of public toilets on streets and in parks across the city, writes Keri Beckingham.

BRISTOL City Council has agreed plans to make £400,000 of savings by cutting the provision of public toilets on streets and in parks across the city, writes Keri Beckingham.

As part of the Your Neighbourhoods Consultation, three options were proposed for how toilets could be run in the future. Just over half of those who responded were in favour of closing all 18 of the street toilets and setting up a new Community Toilet Scheme, which was the recommendation that was put to the Cabinet at the meeting on December 4. 

Under the scheme, local businesses and the voluntary sector will be encouraged to open up access to at least 36 alternative facilities across Bristol, free of charge, with the aim of making sure that at least 70 per cent of the provision would be wheelchair accessible.

However, concerns have been raised about how the cuts will affect particular members of the community, such as the elderly, the homeless, parents with young children, people with dementia and the disabled. 

At the meeting, Deputy Mayor, Councillor Asher Craig addressed concerns that had been raised as part of the consultation, saying: “Access to publicly available toilets is important, but the current sites are not fit for purpose.

“The aim is that by the time toilets close, there will be a working network in place, and the recommendations is to double the amount of publicly available toilet sites and ensure that they are spread across the city.”

Within our area, toilets at the top of Whiteladies Road and on the Downs are affected. Speaking of the closures and the impact that they may have on the local community, Councillor Martin Fodor said: “We’ve already lost those displaced by the Bristol North Baths redevelopment, as the temporary ones in Sommerville Road have closed to make way for the old police station to be redeveloped, and the new block is no longer going to be fitted out and opened due to budget cuts.

“While the council are confident that the ‘business and community’ scheme of permitting people to use other toilets will increase supply, this does not mean that fully accessible toilets will be widely available, despite many possible toilets in our main shopping areas or pubs. 

“The key message from users is that for many people they do have to know before they plan a trip out and set off from home that there will be access to toilets when they are out. Maps and good information and regular updating will be essential. 

“This is another casualty of the cuts being implemented and it’s going to hit some people quite hard by restricting their lives.  If traders are not happy with the number of users coming in to their facilities or any extra costs then there’s no promise they will be offered.”

The council now plans to work with Bristol Ageing Better to produce a paper based map, so that people will be able to plan their trips in Bristol with toilet access in mind. There will also be an online version of the map and prominent signage to highlight the toilets involved in the scheme. Recruitment of businesses to take part in the scheme will also begin straight away and where council toilets are closing, the aim is to signpost people to a nearby facility before closure so there is no gap in provision. 

The council is also working closely with Crohns and Colitis UK to ensure that its members are aware of the proposed new locations, and to raise awareness of the needs of people in the city  living with Crohns and Colitis. 

They will also continue to work with St Mungo’s to develop an appropriate solution for homeless people.