Where to spend a penny or two in East Anglia

The public toilet block at Beccles Quay. Picture: Nick Butcher

The public toilet block at Beccles Quay. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of judging public toilets for excellence and, at the other end of the scale, for ghastliness. The best and worst were awarded Boggies.

Consequently, I feel well-placed to offer an opinion on the paucity of public loos in our town centres. There was a time when they were readily available but today, many are gone and those that aren’t gone are consequently serving much a much larger lavatory-needing public.

Following a Freedom of Information request, the BBC has compiled a map showing how local authorities have approached provision of public WCs. In East Anglia, Suffolk Coastal District Council and Ipswich get the plaudits having three more public toilets than in 2010 (sometimes data for years up to 2013 was used). Other coastal councils including Waveney, Great Yarmouth, North Norfolk, and Tendring have fewer and across Suffolk and Norfolk, in Norwich and most inland councils, there has been no change. North Essex has lost a number of loos, notably, Uttlesford which used to have one and now has none. I’m told, however, there is one in the town centre of Saffron Walden (is it the town council’s?).

Yes, many stores have a ladies’ and gents’ and baby-changing but here again, what if you’re in town after the shops shut? In summer, it is not unusual to see families out and about in towns and cities during the evenings. Where are you supposed to take a child whose need is immediate?

My finer sensibilities tell me that no one is keen to use a public toilet so it tends to be a matter of urgency. On holiday in Italy, we visited a town where anyone could use restaurant toilets for free ? no purchase necessary.

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I’m not keen on the pay-to-use pavement cubicles that clean themselves after a use but rather this than nothing at all. Of all the basic human needs, going to the loo is the one that cannot be ignored for too long... not without employing special techniques - leg crossing, avoiding contact with running water, distraction methods etc. Excuse me... all that talking about it... I have to go

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