A loo with a view at Sheringham
07:00 31 December 2010
A disused public toilet on a north Norfolk seafront is being offered for sale - and holds to key to providing new loos for tourists and passing walkers.
The two-storey building on Sheringham’s easte prom has stunning views of the sea that officials want to sell as a holiday home.
But the buyers, like the former users, will need to be a bit ”flush” - as the seaview ”des res” is estimated as being worth about £100,000.
The 100-year-old block’s future holds the key to upgrading facilities on Sheringham’s east promenade, with plans to ring-fence the sale proceeds to build a new block a pebble’s throw away.
Plans have generally been welcomed, but with some concerns aired by members of a lobby group concerned about the temporary toilets provided since the old block was shut in 2006.
Guest house owner Avril Duke-Millar said they were worried the old toilets would not reach the expected selling price, which would scupper the plans for the new block, that was needed to cater for tourists, beach hut owners and walkers all year round.
And Judith Miller, who runs the Sheringham Enhancement Group with her, said they wanted a £80-90,000 “reserve” price put on the building so it was not “given away” - and for the new block to have the flexibility to be scaled down if necessary.
The old toilets date back to about 1900, with later additions, but were shut in 2006 because they were unsuitable for modern day use.
They are among the more unusual seafront properties to come up for grabs, barring beach huts, which can command prices of tens of thousands of pounds in East Anglia’s more sought after resorts.
A report to North Norfolk District Council’s cabinet says £75,000 was needed to refurnish the block, and even then the location high above the prom needing steps or a steep slope meant it could not be compliant with disabled access legislation.
Councillors are being recommended to seek planning permission to convert the block to a holiday home, and sell it. Comparable properties had recently sold for £105,000 to £165,000, but with the £50,000 cost of conversion to residential knocked off it meant the valuation was £100,000. If those went through in the spring, building on the new block could start in the autumn, with completion by Christmas 2011.
The new block, design with alternate coloured doors for a beach hut look, features six unisex toilet cubicles, gents’ urinals, a disabled toilet, a baby change room, shower, and drinking fountain.
Mrs Miller said the old toilet block had “stunning views” and was a “wonderful business opportunity” for an investor, but urged scope for a smaller-scale plan if the old block sold at a reduced price.
A permanent new block was needed as the temporary toilets, opened at Easter and removed in October, were “totally unsuitable.” Cubicles were not big enough for a mother and child, and it was impossible to open the disabled toilet because it had a heavy fire door.
The report to be discussed by councillors on Monday January 10 however said there was “wide ranging support” for the scheme.
●People do queue up to buy former public toilets, whether they are just bog standard, or the prospect of a lucrative vacant plot.
True “convenience shopping” attracts property speculators and investors, as well as people looking for quirky bargains being sold by cash-strapped councils offloading assets, so normally without a chain.
Two years ago the property world was stunned when two-storey public convenience near Fulham Broadway in London was sold for £403,000 - four times the guide price - after it was flagged up as a great site for a club, school or cafe.
The previous year a one-storey loo in the Scottish golfing town of St Andrews sold for £195,000 - also more than four times the expected figure.
In 2008 a block in the run down Toxteth area of Liverpool was bought for £90,000 - a staggering nine times the asking price.
It was snapped up, after a fierce bidding war, by a Turkish businessman as a gift for his student daughter, who hoped to transform the block and surrounding land, already in the hands of her property-owning family, into 18 luxury apartments and eight shops.
Earlier a rather humbler block at West Country tourist village Boscastle was sold by Cornwall council for £5,000, which was at the bottom end of the £5,000-£15,000 guide price and despite auctioneers saying they hoped it would “create a good stream of interest.”