How public toilets have become an inconvenience
PUBLISHED: 17:55 12 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:30 13 February 2019
It is almost 170 years since the first public toilet was opened in the UK. Yet in many parts it has become harder to spend a penny because of the closure of council-run toilets.
Where for older people, young families with children or travellers coming to Norfolk on their summer holidays, the lack of facilities is am increasing public inconvenience.
Cash-strapped councils have increasingly looked to make savings by closing facilities. More than 650 public toilets across the UK have stopped being maintained by local authorities since 2010 and 37 major councils no longer run any at all.
Between 2011 and 2018 six public toilets were closed in Great Yarmouth, six were no longer being maintained in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk and there were two fewer places to stop for a toilet break in South Norfolk.
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There was no reduction in the numbers in Broadland, Breckland or Norwich over that period, though in the city the once plentiful places have dwindled significantly.
Public toilets in Tombland and the St Saviours Street closed in the early 2000s . Other former public toilets which are no more include ones at the bottom of Grapes Hill, which became notorious for activities other than the purpose the block was built for, and ones outside St Andrew’s Hall.
Those remaining in the city centre include Norwich Market, the St Andrews and Rose multi-storey car parks, and Rose Lane night time toilets with limited opening times.
Norwich City Council also advises people caught short to use the toilets in the Chapelfield and Castle Mall shopping centres.
Local authorities are not legally required to provide toilets, so looking to make savings they have sought to make alternative arrangements including schemes to open up private toilets in shop, pubs and restaurants to public use.
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In North Norfolk the Melbourne toilets closed in Cromer but the council bucked the national trend by investing an additional £600,000 into its public loos. Work is currently underway to refurbish the public toilets at Bacton while they have won national recognition with Happisburgh, Sheringham and Cromer picking up ‘Loo of the Year’ awards.
South Norfolk Council has worked with town and parish councils to take over local responsibility for the management of all of their five public toilets, except in Long Stratton.
Some relief also came in the October budget when the chancellor announced owners will no longer pay business rates on public toilets.
Raymond Martin, director of the British Toilet Association, which had campaigned for the move for nearly 10 years, said: “We were delighted to hear the budget as it brought with it an opportunity for providers and suppliers. We know that councils are under immense pressure with their budgets and despite having no legal obligation to maintain these public facilities, they have continued to try to reverse the rate of decline.”