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Lack of loos is ‘ridiculous’ - shoppers’ anger over lack of public toilets

PUBLISHED: 08:05 20 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:41 20 June 2020

The public toilets at the Arc shopping centre are currently closed, but some shops there are now open Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The public toilets at the Arc shopping centre are currently closed, but some shops there are now open Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The lack of public toilets in Bury St Edmunds as non-essential shops reopen has perplexed and angered some residents and traders who feel it is “ridiculous”.

The nearest public toilets to Abbeygate Street are at the Abbey Gardens Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe nearest public toilets to Abbeygate Street are at the Abbey Gardens Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Some non-essential retailers opened their doors again on Monday, June 15, after being closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but only two lots of public loos are currently available - both in one end of town.

The Arc shopping centre toilets are shut as its management reminds people “the time is not yet right for a long shopping trip to the centre” and the West Suffolk Council-managed loos at the Apex venue - at the Arc centre - and nearby bus station are also closed. The council-run public toilets currently available are at the Abbey Gardens and Ram Meadow car park.

MORE: Public toilets taped off after people ‘ignore social distancing’ rules

The Ourburystedmunds Business Improvement District (BID) group advised people on Monday to “spend a penny at home before you spend your pounds in the town centre” as they let people know the majority of public toilets in the town are currently closed.

Sas Astro, who started a debate after posting a picture of some taped off cubicles at Abbey Gardens on the ‘We Really Love Bury St Edmunds’ Facebook group, said: “It makes it difficult for a lot of people; those with medical conditions, the elderly, people with young children.”

St John's Street - an independent shopping street - has a range of shops open Picture: MARIAM GHAEMISt John's Street - an independent shopping street - has a range of shops open Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

MORE: ‘Spend a penny at home’ - warning over lack of loos as town reopens

One person commenting on the post said the lack of public toilets was “ridiculous” and questioned why the Arc loos weren’t open.

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And on the ‘We Love Bury St Edmunds’ Facebook group toilets were also a talking point.

Group member Paul Lewis said: “How can you expect trade etc to pick up, if you close the toilets? The idea is we get trade moving and start boosting the economy. We can’t spend the rest of our lives cowering in the corners!”

And another member said she felt “ashamed” by the lack of loos and “the way we are being treated after Monday [June 15].”

MORE: Queues outside Sports Direct and Debenhams as non-essential shops reopen in Bury St Edmunds

Mark Cordell, chief executive of the BID, said: “From the BID perspective, the safety of everyone visiting the town centre is our number one priority so I fully understand why the council have not opened all their toilets as yet and neither have the Arc, as there is a considerable obligation to keep these facilities clean and hygienic for all users.

“Having said that, I also realise that many members of the public will not wish to return to the town without adequate washrooms being accessible. I am in communication with both parties regarding this issue and am hoping that additional toilets will be open to the public in the near future.”

MORE: Council-run markets to start selling more goods including plants and cakes

Darren Old, chairman of the Bury St Edmunds branch of the National Market Traders’ Federation (NMTF), said the lack of toilet facilities was “an issue, especially for the traders who work alone and have to leave their stalls to walk to either [Ram Meadow or Abbey Gardens].

“I can’t understand why the Arc hasn’t opened their toilets. If they want customers to shop in town, surely they should open them.

“I don’t know how many times I have been asked by a mother with a young child ‘where’s the nearest toilets?’ I feel embarrassed to tell them.”

The Arc and West Suffolk Council both said the closure of toilets would be kept under review.


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