Babergh and Mid Suffolk to pursue scheme for pubs and shops to provide public toilets
Fears have been voiced that a new scheme which would see pubs, restaurants and shops offering their loos for public use in Babergh and Mid Suffolk could result in existing toilets eventually being cut.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils’ cabinets this week agreed to the community toilet scheme where businesses such as shops and cafes in the area can offer their toilets to the public without people having to buy anything.
Businesses which take part will display a sticker in their window, and would be offered either an annual payment by the council or a reduction in business or commercial waste rates.
The councils also agreed to work with town and parish councils to transfer the management of public lavatories where those councils were interested, but stressed there was no intention to close any of the current public facilities.
Currently Babergh runs 10 public conveniences at a cost of more than £52,000 while the four run by Mid Suffolk costs around £24,000.
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Luke Cresswell, Labour councillor for Sudbury South, said: “The fact is, this is Babergh council, yet again, trying to pass responsibility and cost on to others.
“Some pubs or restaurants may sign up but I don’t think that will be good enough. We need good public amenities and services.
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“Recently, Babergh has released its vision for prosperity for Sudbury. How can we try and regenerate our town centres and at the same time scrap vital amenities?”
However, Babergh’s meeting did agree to fund £13,000 for basic repairs, which is set to help upgrade older systems.
Babergh council leader John Ward said: “Primarily we are going to be responsible but where individual councils wish to [adopt public loos] they can.
“I think this is very thorough, it’s taken a while to put together and it is going to put us in a good position going forward.”
Mid Suffolk environment cabinet member David Burn added: “Public conveniences matter to everybody, particularly older people and those with limited mobility who will benefit most from the community toilet scheme.
“We will be running our scheme in partnership with local businesses and the town and parish councils to help support tourism and the local economy.”
Rachel Eburne from the Mid Suffolk Green group, said: “I think it will be good for communities where they wish to take on the provision of public loos - provided they have the funding and support to do it.
“It is also important for tourism, and would be good if businesses support the proposed scheme.”
Lavenham honesty boxes
Two public lavatories in Lavenham are managed by the village’s parish council utilising an ‘honesty box’ policy.
It means that the toilets are open for public use, with those using the facilities able to pay as much or as little as they like for using them.
All money submitted in the box goes towards the maintenance and upkeep of the loos, and Lavenham Parish Council has said it could provide a model for other town and parish authorities considering the same.
“The two honesty boxes generate 90% of the overall cost of the toilets and car parks,” said parish council chairman Carroll Reeve.
“The first year it was a serious drain but it didn’t take long for people to realise that with free parking that they don’t mind putting in a pound or two because they don’t feel like they are forking out.
“That’s good, and it’s a model that could be used in other places in the district.”