Norfolk needs more loos - the embarrasment and humiliation has to stop

PUBLISHED: 13:03 24 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:31 24 May 2019

We need more public toilets, says Steven Downes Picture:Sabrina Johnson

We need more public toilets, says Steven Downes Picture:Sabrina Johnson


Steven Downes says it is a disgrace in 2019 that people in Norfolk are so often struggling to find a toilet. And there should be far more loos for women especially, he says

For as long as humankind has existed, we have needed to go to the toilet.

And yet - just like sex - the subject makes us laugh, cringe or disgusted. Through millennia and countless billions of people, we still haven't got over it.

Never mind, at least it means Jimmy Carr will still get work.

The other, more ridiculous, thing we've failed to do is to provide the public lavatories that modern society needs.

Thankfully, we no longer have to: squat over a hole outside our tent; sit down on a wooden bench with holes in it, alongside our neighbours or colleagues; go to the bog at the bottom of the garden if we need a wee in the night; throw the contents of our pan into the street.

Aside from the inhumane "slopping out" in some prisons, most of us have decent flushing indoor toilets at home and at work. Bearing in mind that we spend up to 100 days in the loo during our lifetime, it's just as well. I wouldn't read anywhere near so many books if I risked splinters and exposure in the lav.

However, our public bog standard is still far short of...bog standard.

It is said that one in five people in the UK do not go out of their homes because they fear being caught short - stranded too far from a loo.

Norwich and all of our towns and major villages are haunted by the ghosts of toilets past.

In recent decades, despite growing tourism and an apparent determination to get more people into shopping streets, the fashion has been to close public toilets.

It is - literally at times - a pain in the...

It's a major inconvenience for anyone with children, women with heavy periods, many older people, and those with bladder problems.

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And here's where I make a confession, which puts me in danger of ridicule simply because it involves wee - I have to plan much of life on the basis of where and when I'll be near a toilet.

It's a relatively recent issue, almost certainly connected to pills that I take for other conditions.

The upshot is that when I've gotta go, I've really gotta go.

I've had a few very close shaves, and one immensely embarrassing epic fail in the middle of a busy city.

It means that I sometimes put my health at risk to avoid a disaster. As a lithium taker, I'm supposed to drink plenty of water to keep the salt levels down in my blood.

But when I know that I'm going to be out and about for a significant period (anything over about 15 minutes), I won't drink anything for hours.

I spend time online before any journey or visit, checking the number of public loos. When I go for a meal or a coffee, I'll only go to a place with a decent set of toilets.

It shouldn't be an issue in 2019. There ought to be enough loos to meet everybody's needs.

But we still see the undignified sight of people - more often women - queuing for ages to go.

Bearing in mind the obvious differences in our anatomy, and the relative speed at which men and women answer the call of nature, isn't it time for there to be a 2:1 or even 3:1 ratio in favour of women's lavatories?

It's definitely time for councils, chambers of trade, town centre partnerships or other groups to provide more public toilets. I have no problem with paying 20p to spend a penny if that's what it takes to makes it pay.

The extra footfall from those who were previously stuck indoors would boost trade.

But most of all it would just make us a damned sight more civilised - and give dignity back to those of us whose waterworks don't always work.

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