More public toilets are to re-open in East Devon with extended opening hours.
East Devon District Council’s cabinet on Thursday evening unanimously agreed that from Monday, June 29, a further four toilets, in addition to the ten facilities across the district that opened up a month ago, would be unlocked to give better access for the public.
[Owl would add to this report from devonlive that from the video, the Cabinet appeared to be minded to continue to review further options such as proposed by Cllr. Mike Howe in slower time, and possibly for these to be considered by the full Council. Funding the agreed and urgent re-opening will come from other budgets. The Cabinet also agreed to ask local MP for a meeting to discuss the funding problem brought on by Covid-19.]
Opening hours for all 14 toilets will be extended from 8am to 8pm during the summer at a cost of almost £77,000 to ensure they are cleaned to stringent Covid-19 standards.
The toilets will be cleaned four times a day in the summer with viracidal cleaning products and three times a day in the winter. Every week the toilets will have a full site disinfected deep clean.
The council’s street cleaning summer budget of £62,000 is also restored to help deal with the expected influx of visitors in the coming weeks, and the cabinet also agreed to lobby its three district MPs for more funding to help the district through the pandemic.
But calls from Conservative councillors for all 27 public toilets in the district to reopen were rejected as it would ‘cost somewhere between a lot of money and a hell of a lot of money’.
The chosen scheme whereby toilets close at 8pm in the summer and 5pm in the winter would cost £76,962 rather than the £213,135 to reopen all 17 currently closed toilets.
Cllr Paul Arnott, Leader of the council, told the meeting: “Our coastal towns and major shopping areas must have safe Covid-19 compliant lavatories restored as a matter of extreme urgency. The problem is that this will cost somewhere between a lot of money and a hell of a lot of money.
The toilets that will re-open from Monday, June 29, with opening hours from 8am to 8pm in the summer months are:
Cliff Path (West End, Steamer Steps), Budleigh Salterton
Magnolia Centre, Exmouth
Phear Park, Exmouth
Market Place, Sidmouth
Toilets that re-opened from May and will have opening times extended from 8am to 8pm during the summer months from next Monday are:
West Street Car Park, Axminster
East End (Lime Kiln), Budleigh Salterton
Jubilee Gardens, Beer
Foxholes Car Park, Exmouth
Manor Gardens, Exmouth
Queens Drive/Old Lifeboat, Exmouth
King Street, Honiton
West Walk, Seaton
Connaught Gardens, Sidmouth
Calling for additional toilets to be reopen, Cllr Ian Barlow, chairman of Sidmouth town council, said: “Now the town is open, we have no toilets in the town and that is not acceptable, and people are reliving themselves outside of the toilets and that has to be more of a health hazard. If you want people to come to the town, you have to give them the facilities.”
Cllr Andrew Moulding, leader of the Conservative Group, said that the need to reopen all the toilets was extremely important and vital to help support businesses. He said: “People will go where they can get the best service and we should give the service the people of East Devon expect.”
Cllr Ian Hall added: “This is our best opportunity to support the economy and give East Devon the best chance to recover, and we don’t want to be in a position where we regret not doing the best we could in the circumstances.”
Cllr Mike Howe said that reopening all the toilets was the best option for the economy, but said that a compromise option whereby all the toilets were reopened but with reduced opening hours in the winter should be looked at as well. He added: “It would cost less as only extending the opening hours in the summer and gives the business the best chance to recover, as if the businesses don’t survive, we will be in an even worse situation then we are now.”
But Cllr John Loudoun said that while he would love to see all 27 toilets open, but the council would have to find another £140,000 to do so, while Cllr Paul Hayward said that is the council isn’t pragmatic then it faces running out of money.
Cllr Jack Rowland, portfolio holder for finance, added: “I would love to see all the toilets open to support business and industry, but we are not in an ideal situation and have to face some realities. We have to face reality as if we reopen all the toilets, where does the money come from?”
Cllr Jess Bailey added over the opening of the additional four toilets: “This strikes the balance between opening up additional toilets and extra hours in the summer and recognising our finances”.
Following the meeting Cllr Geoff Jung, the council’s portfolio holder for the Coast, Countryside and Environment, said: “I am really pleased that we are able to re-open and extend the hours for our public toilet offering. As we come out of these most challenging of times we will be aiming to return to our normal high standard of services and facilities, albeit in some places reduced coverage as services have to be Covid-19 compliant which is costing more.”
But skateparks, playgrounds, and multi-use areas in the district will remain closed, with a council spokesman saying: “While we understand the eagerness by some to use these much-loved facilities, government guidance has advised that playgrounds and similar facilities must remain closed for the time being until we are told otherwise.
“These facilities attract large numbers of people and the activities they are used for would, by their nature, lead to breaches of social distancing. The council would be unable to regulate social distancing at these sites or clean all surfaces to the frequency needed to prevent the potential for the virus to be present.”
Cllr Jung added: “I appreciate that young people want to use our skateparks and multi-use game areas, and this is something we hope can be achieved in the near future. We are constantly reviewing all our facilities and it is hoped all play areas will be considered safe to be used shortly as the government further relaxes the emergency measures.”