Town 'crying out' for loos to pay £37,000 a year to re-open shopping centre toilets
- Credit: Archant
Privately owned toilets at the Horsefair shopping centre toilets in Wisbech which were closed because of repeated vandalism, could re-open with £37,000 annually of council taxpayers’ money.
The town council is looking to lease the toilets from Horsefair owners, New River Retail.
It would bring the loos back into use – for five hours daily, seven days a week – with an attendant looking after them.
Town clerk Terry Jordan says some of the first-year costs could come from “re-purposing” £15,000 set aside to convert the closed Exchange Square toilets for disabled use only and from the ‘toilets cleansing budget’.
Mr Jordan has invited councillors to respond by Friday if they agree to take the idea forward.
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Independent town councillor Dave Patrick says he was “astonished but not surprised” the decision was being made without scrutiny by a full council meeting.
Cllr Patrick said he was angered, too, by a response from council leader Sam Hoy when he queried the lack of consultation.
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“She told me she was not surprised that I wasn’t ‘really supportive’ and that ‘if the Conservatives want to do it, you always vote no’”
Cllr Patrick said: “That is unfair and unjust. It is my job as an elected member to ask questions that I believe are pertinent and proper given the proposed expenditure and previous situations that have arisen.
“I have at no point indicated, as yet, that I do not support the proposal in principle.
“But with a project of this size and associated costs it is not unreasonable to ask appropriate questions and seek public consultation. After all it is the public’s money that is being spent.”
He added: “Having read the document from the town clerk and the implications, I believe even more that there should be a public consultation and the public advised of the cost.”
Cllr Patrick said “Before the council take on this increased expenditure in the running and maintenance cost of these facilities should we not be applying pressure on the owners of the Horse Fair shopping centre to do this themselves?
Mr Jordan said ‘without prejudice’ discussions have taken place with the manager of the centre.
New River Retail “have no intention, because of negative past experiences, to re-open these toilets.
“The only way that they would be open again is if taken-on by an appropriate third-party (such as Wisbech Town Council) and that party would be required to have the toilets manned during open hours”.
This, he said, would be a means of “preventing the anti-social and inappropriate use of the toilets; it is because of such activity that they were closed”.
Being considered is a lease with the owners, no rent being charged but with the council providing a an operative/cleaner on site daily from 9am to 2pm, seven days a week.
The council would meet the cost of internal repairs and maintenance and the cost of all consumables (such as soap and toilet rolls).
On the upside the council would retain the income which at 20p per user visit is estimated at £6,200 a year; the centre would meet the cost of insurance, electricity and water.
Mr Jordan said in talks with the manager he “made the point that the public in Wisbech is crying out for more public toilets in the town”.
He told New River Retail that it was a strongly-held view that being able to re-open the ones at the Horsefair Shopping Centre would make Wisbech significantly more attractive.
Wisbech only has two public toilets that are open: St Peter’s car park owned and run by Fenland Council and the Wisbech Park toilets, run by the town council.
Three years ago, the then mayor Steve Tierney believed he had found the answer to the town’s on-going public loos crisis – get shopkeepers to put up ‘welcome here’ stickers and open them to anyone caught short.
Cllr Tierney’s motion to the town council on Monday -headed “Public Rest Rooms Initiative was approved.
The mayor proposed the council ask shopkeepers and business “if they would be willing to make their toilet(s) available for public use”.