Suffolk: Public toilets next in line for cuts

THE closure of public toilets in Suffolk’s tourist hot spots could hit visitor numbers, it has been warned.

At Babergh District Council’s budget meeting on Tuesday six toilet blocks were earmarked for closure in a bid to make savings, unless community groups stepped forward to run them.

They include public conveniences in the tourist hot spots of Long Melford, Lavenham and Flatford plus those in Pin Mill, Shotley and East Bergholt.

Michael Miller, Liberal Democrat district councillor for Dodnash, said the council claimed it would make savings of �0,000 a year if the closures went ahead.

He said: “I’m totally opposed to these closures. Babergh is clearly under pressure to make savings but there is a lot more they can do before we have to close or handover toilets.

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“Officers came up with the idea of pubs letting visitors use their toilets but this is not workable. The council knows how important tourism is to this region. We can’t on the one hand encourage and welcome visitors to our region, only for them to get here and find we can’t even provide the most basic of facilities. This will have a negative impact on how we are perceived by visitors.”

He said it was unfair the villages of Lavenham and Long Melford, who were already under pressure to run libraries, country parks and lollipop ladies, were now being told they would have to take on the running of public toilets.

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“It would like to see Babergh cut back on expensive seminars at golf clubs and civic receptions for other councils long before they make moves to remove toilets and other basic services,” he said.

District councillor Penny Clarke proposed that the council should continue discussions with town and parish councils on future ownership possibilities of the toilets before the debate was brought back to Babergh ahead of a final decision.

“For now it just means a stay of execution. Public toilets are being closed up and down the country but we must not let this happen here.”

A Babergh spokesperson said the reduction in government grants was causing a massive squeeze on the district council’s finances and many tough decisions had to be made to balance the books.

He said: “One of these involves a number of rural toilets owned by the council; but rather than just closing them with immediate effect we are exploring possible arrangements with parish councils, community groups and local businesses to see if any of these groups may wish to run them instead”.

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