Thousands petition council to save public toilets

Two petitions to keep public toilets open have been signed by more than 13,000 people between them – and this week they are due to be presented to Brighton and Hove City Council.

Since the petitions were started, the council has pledged to rethink its plans to close 18 public toilets from the start of April after an outcry from sports, community and disabled groups.

Conservative and Labour councillors refused to back a proposal to charge people to use those toilets that would have remained open at a meeting last month.

And last week, the council announced a U-turn on the proposals which were intended to save £300,000 as efforts continue to balance the books.

But campaigners remain concerned about the future of public toilets and the two petitions are due to go before the council’s Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday (9 February).

One of the petitions was started on the council’s website by one of the directors of Preston Park parkrun, Adam Penwarden.

More than 5,150 people have signed his petition, highlighting the effect of closures on people taking part in the free weekly 5k run and walk which is held every Saturday morning.

The petition said that more than 26,000 took part in the Preston Park event last year. The toilets in Hove Park were also threatened with closure which would affect the Brighton and Hove parkrun.

Mr Penwarden said: “Closing toilets has a disproportionate impact on women, older people, children, disabled people and people with long-term health conditions.

“Public consultation (sorely lacking in this instance) is critical to good outcomes and, even though there is no statutory obligation to provide toilets, closing them has an impact on council income, tourism and the council’s stated objectives of improving access for disabled people and encouraging Brighton citizens to lead active lives.”

A second petition was set up on the website by Julia Claxton, from Hove. It has been signed by 8,314 people.

The petition called for protection for toilets in popular parks, including Stanmer Park, Wild Park and Preston Park, and locations along the seafront, including Ovingdean, Rottingdean, Black Rock and the King Alfred.

She said: “Many events simply will not be able to take place without these toilets.

“It will also do nothing to help the cleanliness of the city which will become increasingly unpleasant in the height of summer with all the visitors.”

Dozens of people held a demo in St Ann’s Well Gardens about plans to close public toilets in parks

Councillors discussed the plan to start charging and to close toilets at a meeting of the full council last Thursday (2 February), even after the U-turn on closures.

Labour councillor Nancy Platts asked for the proposals to go before all councillors for debate. She was concerned that no groups were consulted and there were no assessments of the effects on the disabled, families and the elderly.

Councillor Platts said: “No stakeholders, including outdoor fitness groups, were consulted, leaving thousands of people facing the potential loss of weekly exercise because they weren’t asked about the impact of the closure on their lives.

“I’ve had emails from hundreds of distressed people with Crohn’s disease, colitis and other bowel disorders, people with diabetes, pregnant women, women who have heavy periods, women going through menopause, older men with prostate problems … the list goes on. And so does the anxiety and distress caused by this poorly thought through proposal.”

Councillor Nancy Platts

Conservative councillor Carol Theobald said that she was shocked by the proposals, adding: “So many of our residents are upset about this.

“This may not be a statutory service but how many other non-statutory services are the administration continuing to provide or wasting money on?

“If we expect visitors and our residents to visit our city centre, seafront and parks, we should properly finance our toilets as a priority.”

Green councillor Steve Davis, who chairs the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said that the decision was “not the making” of the Green administration or the previous Labour one.

He said: “I am often berated that we keep pleading poverty while spending money on improving our city.

“All the money we receive from central government and the funding streams have specific spending allocations, meaning they must be spent on the specific things, and the funds cannot be allocated elsewhere.

“We’ve recently won funding for playgrounds, active travel improvements and bus service improvements plans.

“But, ultimately, we are sick to death of going cap in hand to this government for funding streams when all we want is proper local government financing.”

The council’s Policy and Resources Committee is due to discuss the budget at Hove Town Hall at 4pm on Thursday (9 February). The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

  1. Soph Reply

    I don’t understand. Why is there no statutory obligation to provide public toilets (especially in a city famed for tourism)? That just seems uncivilised and cruel. Before they built the toilets on Hove seafront, the old lags used to use the alleyway down the side of our flats as a toilet. My mum used to go out there every weekend with a bottle of bleach and a bucket of water. She was made of strong stuff. Parts of the seafront still stink in Summer…poo and weed. Yuk. How can we make it nice and clean, safe and comfortable for residents and visitors alike?

  2. Sd Reply

    Bournemouth seems to be able to manage, plenty of toilets available for free close to the seafront, really clean and well cared for, too.

    Our Council doesn’t care about people and their basic needs.

    • Hendrik Reply

      And a small towns like Lewes and Seaford manage very well. The Greens are totally out of touch with residents and ratepayers. We should not be fooled into thinking that they will change their minds about closing down public toilets. If, heaven forbid, they manage to get in again, they will ignore all complaints, and just carry on with their bizarre and unpopular projects, such as this one.

      • Westdene Seagull Reply

        You don’t even need to go that far – even Adur manage to keep their toilets open ALL YEAR.

  3. Hovelassies Reply

    If BHCC want to find £300,000 to help balance the books cancel the license on the 20-30 derelict beach huts along the promenade which have fallen into abject despair in violation of the license agreement. Scrap the derelict huts and sell license for the plots for £20K each. That will yield a tidy sum, make the promenade look better, and act as a disincentive for other beach hut owners to neglect their huts.

  4. Rostrum Reply

    Unless all the petition signatories are known green party members they will no doubt be ignored as being from idiots not steeped in greenish philosophy…

    Here’s a slogan for the coming elections

    GREENS : Taking the PISS

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