Northumberland County Council has said it remains committed to ensuring public toilets continue to be provided following a review which will see some facilities closed during the winter or permanently.
The council recognises the importance of public toilets in supporting tourism, the local economy and in helping people to lead more active and independent lives, despite there being no legal requirement to provide them. Over the last year, the authority has invested an extra £50,000 to refurbish public toilets following years of under investment.
The review looked at the 62 public toilets the council currently owns or operates across the county and proposes changes. Some facilities only provide a very basic provision, are expensive to operate and are no longer considered to be the best way of providing public toilets.
The review has involved meetings with town and parish Councils to discuss their needs and how best they can be provided, while more local businesses and organisations with customer toilets have been approached about joining the council’s You’re Welcome to use our Loos scheme, where local businesses are offered a £500 a year (£250 for winter) to make their toilet facilities available to the public, often resulting in an improved provision.
The review is expected to result in £120,000 of savings and, if approved, would recommend nine toilets being closed, winter closures for some, additional businesses and organisations joining the You’re Welcome scheme and the possibility of some funding support for those town and parish councils which want to take on responsibility for the day-to-day running of their local toilets. Customer toilets at Active Northumberland leisure centres and libraries will also be available for the public to use.
The council currently spends around £600,000 a year on public toilets, with a third of the cost relating to the opening, closing, cleaning and restocking of the toilets. The average cost of running a toilet block per year, taking into account business rates, building maintenance and utility costs is between £8,000 and £14,000.
Cabinet member for local services, Coun Ian Swithenbank, said: “We know how important public toilets are to people and the positive impact they have on the local economy, tourism and in helping people to lead more active and independent lives.
“Over the last couple of years, we have refurbished a number of facilities following years of underinvestment. However, the council is faced with having to save £44million over the next two years due to Government cuts, so we have had no choice but to make savings to this budget.
“We are keen to ensure the provision is of a good quality; often this can be provided more efficiently and effectively by local businesses and organisations through the ‘You’re welcome to use our Loos’ scheme which we will promote further. We are also working closely with parish and town councils to discuss their specific needs and what support is available locally to help provide this service. This has included some parish and town councils being keen to take over the day to day running of their toilets with some funding support from the county council.
“While we are recommending the closure of nine out of the 62 toilets, we believe there is adequate, if not improved, provision elsewhere, and in many other instances are recommending just winter closures.”
The review recommends that the closures will be implemented from November this year. The review will be discussed by councillors at the communities and local services scrutiny committee next Wednesday.
Proposals for individual towns and villages
Alnmouth: Marine Road – discussions with the parish council regarding funding support to maintain existing opening hours, otherwise the toilets will be closed during the winter.
Alnwick: The Shambles & Greenwell Rd – no change.
Amble: Tourist Information – no change. Broomhill St - toilets to close during the winter. Toilets are available at the Tourist Information Centre and additional provision is being secured via the You’re Welcome scheme.
Ashington: Station Rd – no change. Toilet provision will be considered as part of the wider regeneration plans for the town. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area. Milburn Rd – to be closed. This is due to low usage and there already being provision in the town centre.
Bamburgh: Church St – toilet to close during the winter. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area. Links Car Park – to be fully closed, subject to discussions with Bamburgh Castle. Already closed during the winter.
Beadnell: Beadnell Car Park – currently closed in winter; discussions with a local company over support for opening and closing the toilets.
Berwick: Eastern Lane superloo & Woolmarket superloo – no change. Castlegate Car Park – no change; discussions being held with Berwick Town Council over servicing arrangements. The Promenade, Spittal – toilets to close during the winter. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area. Magdalene Fields – toilets to close during the winter.
Blyth: Market Place – no change. Keel Row – seek more businesses/organisations to join the You’re Welcome scheme and if achieved, review the provision. Ridley Park – remove existing temporary toilet block and develop new toilet block as part of the parks improvement project; discussions taking place with partner organisations about funding. Broadway Playing Fields – remove existing toilet block and provide new public toilets integrated into the new pavilion building. Ranch Car Park, The Links – to be closed; in poor condition and alternative facilities available. Temporary toilets will be made available as appropriate for community events.
Craster: Tourist Information Centre – no change; further review of frequency of cleaning arrangements.
Cresswell: Cresswell Village – no change. Creswell Parish Council already responsible for day-to-day operation of this facility.
Holy Island: Green Lane Car Park – no change. Crossgates – to be closed. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area.
Longhoughton: Boulmer - Coastguard Cottage – to be closed during winter. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area.
Morpeth: Library Car Park & Carlisle Car Park – no change. Morpeth Town Council already responsible for the day-to-day running of the toilets.
Newbiggin: Milburn Park Pavilion – no change. Prospect Place (Cresswell Arms) – to be closed. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area. Public toilet provision also being considered as part of the proposals for the new library/public building.
Newton-by-the-Sea: Low Newton-by-the-Sea, rear of Ship Inn – to be closed during winter. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area.
Norham: Norham – no change, subject to discussions with the parish council regarding support.
North Sunderland: Seahouses, main car park – no change, discussions with the parish council regarding current opening/closing and cleansing arrangements to reduce costs.
Otterburn: Main St – no change.
Ponteland: Bolam Lake Car Park – no change. Merton Rd – no change. Town council already funds servicing costs.
Rothbury: Bridge St – discussions with the parish council about transferring the provision to the council as part of the plans to include a new Riverside play area and toilets. Riverside – no change; facility was previously closed but has re-opened during the summer following a request and funding by the parish council.
Seaton Valley: Fountainhead Bank Cark Park – no change; priority for refurbishment subject to funding being available.
Seaton Delaval: Roundabout – discussions with the parish council regarding funding support to maintain existing opening hours, otherwise the toilets will be closed during the winter.
Seaton Sluice: West Terrace near Seaton Sluice Harbour – to be closed, public toilets already at Fountainhead Bank Car Park. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area.
Warkworth: New Town Car Park (Warkworth Beach) – to close during the winter. Financial support already provided by the parish council. Brewery Lane – to close during the winter. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area.
West Bedlington: Bedlington Town Centre (library) – no change; currently closed due to building condition and vandalism, and awaiting outcome of a structural survey. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area. Future provision to be considered as part of the wider regeneration plans for Bedlington. Hartford Bridge (Plessey Woods) – no change.
Wooler: Bus Station Car Park - discussions with parish council regarding funding support to maintain existing opening hours, otherwise the toilets will be closed during the winter. The council is progressing the You’re Welcome scheme in the area.