Flush for cash? Council spends thousands on toilets closed years ago

The toilet block at Cowper Road, in Dereham which has been closed since 2008.

The toilet block at Cowper Road, in Dereham which has been closed since 2008. - Credit: Archant

A district council in Norfolk has paid more than £15,000 in business rates on public toilets which have been closed for almost 10 years.

Dereham town councillor Robert Hambidge. Picture: ARCHANT.

Dereham town councillor Robert Hambidge. Picture: ARCHANT. - Credit: Archant � 2011

Breckland Council continues to pay the rates on the toilets at Cowper Road, Dereham, despite no immediate prospects of them being reopened.

Furthermore these rates could be set for a sharp increase.

Breckland Council said it has explored options to reduce the fee, without success, and retains the building as it could have a future use.

Meanwhile, Dereham mayor and Breckland councillor Phillip Duigan said he has some sympathy for the authority's position and has praised the district council's overall record with commercial property.

Dereham mayor Phillip Duigan. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Dereham mayor Phillip Duigan. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Breckland Council has paid approximately £2,286 per year in business rates on the Cowper Road toilets since they closed nine years ago.

In the government's 2017 draft valuation, this could increase to around £3,500 per year.

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Dereham town councillor Robert Hambidge said: 'You wouldn't think you'd have to pay business rates on toilets - especially ones that are closed. It defies logic. You would have thought somebody, somewhere, would have thought this isn't right and the money could be put to better use.

'Then again, I understand there are long-term plans for some retail development there and the council may feel it will get its money back.'

A spokesperson for Breckland Council said: 'The council has explored options to reduce the business rates it pays on the unit but business rates would remain due on the land, even if the building was demolished. As a result, Breckland has retained the building as it potentially may have a use in the future.'

Mr Duigan said: 'You will always get these odd situations from time to time but, overall, Breckland Council has a very good record with commercial property which enables it to have lowest council tax in the country.'

The toilets closed in 2008 after Breckland Council passed on ownership of public toilets to town councils, along with associated funding.

Breckland Council gave Dereham Town Council enough money for one set of toilets.

The town council took on the toilets in Barwells Court and the Cowper Road toilets closed.

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