What a to-do over the loo
By Richard SmithRESIDENTS are steering clear of using an expensive block of public toilets after being locked inside for long periods.In the latest incident, a visitor to Woodbridge had been trapped for 45 minutes in the £100,000 toilets in the town's Brook Street before being rescued by firefighters who used specialised equipment to cut through the lock.
By Richard Smith
RESIDENTS are steering clear of using an expensive block of public toilets after being locked inside for long periods.
In the latest incident, a visitor to Woodbridge had been trapped for 45 minutes in the £100,000 toilets in the town's Brook Street before being rescued by firefighters who used specialised equipment to cut through the lock.
Jacqueline Patient, who lives nearby, said: “The alarm had been raised by his wife who was waiting outside for him.
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“During her wait she had helped to free an elderly lady who was trapped for 30 minutes in the toilet next to her husband.''
The toilets were opened in the spring as part of a modernisation programme by Suffolk Coastal District Council.
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But Ms Patient claimed people had become stuck on a daily basis since they were opened.
“The number of incidents reported to Suffolk Coastal District Council would not give a proper indication of the problem as most of the victims are visitors and tourists to the town - the locals have learned to avoid using them,” she said.
“Not everyone who uses Woodbridge public toilets has someone waiting outside for them or even a mobile phone to call for help. How long is it going to be before someone on their own is trapped overnight?”
The vandal-proof block consists of individual toilets with external doors, but there is no indicator to show whether they are engaged or vacant, no sign to distinguish between a men's urinal and WC and no shelter for people waiting.
Cliff Cocker, a Woodbridge town and district councillor, said: “I think the reason for the lack of a shelter is they did not want to encourage people to hang about. But if you are waiting to go to the toilet, you have no choice but to hang about.”
The council said it was aware of the rescue by firefighters and complaints about the locks.
But a council spokesman reassured users there was nothing wrong with the locks - they just had to learn to use them properly.
Temporary signs have been displayed to illustrate how to operate the lock which has been used elsewhere in the district without the council receiving complaints.
“To lock the door, you need to turn the lock, but it is possible to turn more than once, which makes the lock even more secure,” said the spokesman.
“You also then need to unturn it the number of times that you have turned it to open it again, but it seems that not all people have been doing this.”
The council said officers were investigating the other complaints and admitted more signs were required.