July 23 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
A scheme to keep public conveniences open in one of Suffolk’s most picturesque tourist villages is working well, the newly-elected parish council chairman has confirmed.
The people of Lavenham decided to take control of the two public toilet blocks in the village in 2011, after Babergh District Council said it could no longer afford to keep them open.
The parish council also assumed responsibility for managing its own car parks.
But while Long Melford parish council has expressed some concerns about the ongoing cost of keeping its toilets open, Lavenham’s scheme – which includes asking people to make a donation to park or use the lavatories – is being hailed as a success.
Although there were doubts as to whether visitors would voluntarily pay, so far more than £1,000 has been left in an “honesty box” at the main facilities in the car park next to The Cock pub.
Parish council chairman Carroll Reeve said: “It costs us a lot to run the toilets and car parks and ideally we would have preferred it if Babergh had kept control of them, but we were faced with the option of taking them on or losing them.
“We don’t charge for parking but there’s an honesty box which has raised several hundred pounds. Although it doesn’t pay the costs, we are hoping as it gains momentum, it will eventually make a larger contribution.”
The parish council uses the same contractor to clean and manage the blocks on a day to day basis as Babergh did, but although the district is currently renegotiating its contract with the Landscape Group, Lavenham is happy with the current arrangement and intends to continue using the firm.
Mr Reeve said the cost of running the car parks and toilets was worthwhile considering the village’s reputation as a top tourist destination.
He added: “More than 300 people in Lavenham are employed in tourism-related jobs and we estimate that around £500,000 is paid out in rates.
“If we let the toilets fall into disrepair or close, our economy would suffer. We took this on at a time when things have been difficult enough for traders so we try to look at it as a positive move and an investment in the village.”
The parish council is also looking to convert all of its street lights to energy-saving LED lights.