East Devon public toilets set to get £3m revamp

More than £3million is going to be spent on upgrading a number of public toilets across East Devon, saving the council thousands of pounds on running costs for years to come.

eastdevon.gov.uk

Have your say in the public toilet consultation.

More than £3million is going to be spent on upgrading a number of public toilets across East Devon, saving the council thousands of pounds on running costs for years to come.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is planning to use a substantial amount of capital investment to ensure the district has the best, most modernised loos, located in the right place, that cost less money to run while also maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness.

The consultation is running for the next eight weeks and closes at 5pm on Friday, 1 October 2021. (See this earlier post for the background to this consultation.)

The authority can’t continue to operate all the public toilets as they currently are, so is also investigating the locations and potential alternative uses for some sites, to make best use of what there is.

Residents are now being asked to share their views in a consultation on the project that looks at how much the public toilets are used at different locations, possible alternative uses, some of which could include public toilets provided by businesses or organisations – such as a café with a public toilet or another community facility.

The idea for ‘pay-to-use’ public conveniences is also being put forward – this could help pay for the running costs of the toilets that are important for residents and tourists alike.

There has been a lack of investment and refurbishment of the toilets over the years and now the majority of these facilities are difficult to maintain, to clean and many require major improvement works. The recent public health emergency has highlighted that our facilities are very difficult to maintain to the new high standard of cleanliness and hygiene that users now expect.

Due to reductions in central Government funding, over the past 10 years, EDDC is facing a £3million funding gap in 2022, unless it changes the way it operates some services.

In 2019 £473,000 was spent running the public convenience service. This provided 30 public toilet sites, 26 owned and operated by the council and four maintained for others.

It amounts to an average of £15,786 a year to directly look after each toilet block, this includes the maintenance of the toilets and providing water, toilet rolls, cleaning them twice a day and management costs.

You can find out more about other costs such as depreciation of the capital assets and recharges in our Cabinet Report here.

The council has also looked into using a third party contractor, to help with the maintenance and services, but thorough investigations showed it would cost less to keep the service ‘in house’.

Councillor Geoff Jung, EDDC Portfolio Holder for Coast, Country and Environment said:  

“We know that public toilets are important to residents and vital to our visitor economy, and an emotive subject, which is why we are asking for your views, so we understand what you consider is important. 

“Most of our public toilets are now requiring major updating and over the last 40 years there has been considerable changes to the areas they are located in, so a total reappraisal is now required of where toilets are required and what facilities are important for residents and visitors.   

“We plan to invest £3million in our toilets to create top class, premier facilities to be proud of, which can address the imbalance in equal access for all, to provide a level of toilet provision within a reasonable walking distance, incorporate adult changing spaces in some prime locations and make better use of some locations for other community use, such as café’s or spaces that still incorporate a public access toilet, such as the Hideaway Café in Seaton. 

“We have to look at doing something differently as we can no longer afford to continue with the status quo, and we believe the proposals we have put forward offer the best balance of high quality accessible public toilets, additional uses that would be a benefit and provide a service that is sustainable for the future.

“Please read our proposals and use the online consultation so we know what you would like.

Tell us what you think about our proposals by filling in the online questionnaire by visiting www.eastdevon.gov.uk/publictoiletreview   

If you need a copy of the consultation on paper or in any other format, please contact us to discuss your needs by email: publictoiletreview@eastdevon.gov.uk or call 01395 517569.

Simon Jupp on East Devon loos.

In this week’s Exmouth Journal Simon Jupp’s regular column concentrates on EDDC’s consultation on public loos.

This is one of EDDC’s legacy problems: dilapidated loos and reduced government funding. Simon Jupp explains how the government is trying to help by removing business rates from them – big deal.

Is he being a bit disingenuous?

What we need is recognition that tourist areas face huge costs without any additional revenue, particularly in the past two years. The loos in the seaside towns during the pandemic have been cleaned four times a day, and don’t mention the cost of rubbish collection. Local authority funding can’t continue to bear the brunt of austerity cuts. – Owl

Simon Jupp MP:

East Devon’s high streets are alive with the sound of people spending pounds in our shops and whether they are visitors or residents, they may also need to spend a penny too.

We are a first-class tourist hotspot and need to remember that our reliance on the visitor economy is based around the experience of the people who choose to visit our towns and villages. They’ll buy lunch, enjoy a coffee or something stronger or shop until they drop. Their contribution to the local economy and creating and preserving jobs should never be taken for granted.

If they have a bad experience, they may not return, and they may share with others the frustrations they encountered. One such experience might be if they are caught short whilst shopping. Currently, public toilets dotted around our towns provide a welcome solution but some may not be around for much longer.

East Devon District Council is currently carrying out a public consultation to help decide the future of our public conveniences. It’s fair to say that some of our loos are a bit bog standard so they are also investing £3 million in some sites to bring them up to scratch.

However, the sites earmarked for closure are a cause for concern and I’m not sure of the logic used to put them on the list. I can’t quite understand the rationale behind potential plans to close the toilets in the Market Place in Sidmouth. They are smack-bang in the middle of town and are busy. I’ve regularly seen queues outside over the years, especially during the summer. They’ll remain open at the Triangle, which is further from the seafront and less obvious to visitors.

I’m aware of significant concerns about the potential closure of the toilets at the Imperial Recreation Ground in Exmouth which would be an extremely foolish move given the popularity of the area for residents and visitors. Meanwhile, the toilets at Orcombe Point also face an uncertain future. Last summer, the area received nationwide attention for the wrong reasons after brawls broke out alongside some very unpleasant antisocial behaviour. Sadly, the country didn’t see our area in a great light – but they did see how busy the area can be. If these loos are closed, signage to the nearby Foxholes toilets will need to be improved dramatically.

Finally, the lavatories at Brook Road and Station Road in Budleigh Salterton are also for the chop. Given the age demographic of the town and the number of visitors, closing both toilets which are so near to the high street would seem rather short-sighted.

The government is trying to help and I supported legislation to help councils keep these services open. As announced by the Chancellor in the last budget, The Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Act 2021 introduces a 100% business rates relief for public toilets. The relief is backdated to April 2020. By effectively exempting public toilets from business rates, the new policy reduces running costs for operators of public toilets (including local councils) to help keep more of these facilities open.

According to EDDC, it saved them £40,000 which I understand is a small dent in the cost of running the service across East Devon. I understand that discussions between town councils and East Devon District Council may help save some of the sites currently destined for closure. I really hope negotiations are successful for the sake of visitors and residents in our towns and villages.

If you want to have your say on East Devon District Council’s plans, you have until 5 pm on October 1st to respond to the council’s questionnaire on their website. The current administration at the council will then decide on the future of our toilets. I sincerely hope they make the right decisions for East Devon or I fear more people will ask why they are paying ever increasing council tax

Print Edition of Exmouth Journal catches up with the news

Sadly, one of the reasons local news in print is declining is that it is obviously finding it difficult to keep pace with electronic news. The John Humphreys story is a case in point.

The Crown Prosecution Service published his conviction and sentence on 20 August, along with a statement of Police praise for the two victims.

On 24 August Ian Thomas, Chairman EDDC, published a statement expressing sympathy for the victims and announcing the calling of an Extraordinary General Meeting on 7 August to consider withdrawing from Humphreys the honour of the title Alderman.

Today, 1 September, the Exmouth Journal carries these elements of the story on page 3 under two headings: 

Police praise for two victims in historic sexual abuse inquiry.

“Shocking acts of violence says” Judge Humphreys groomed and assaulted.

There was a time when this would have been front page news within days.

Bulk of Tory ‘affordable homes programme’ is for buyers, not renters

Some affordable home ownership schemes are open to people on incomes as high as £90,000

www.independent.co.uk 

The bulk of the government’s new £8.6bn “affordable homes programme” will be directed at helping homebuyers rather than renters, housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced on Tuesday.

Out of the 119,000 new homes being built, 57,000 will be for ownership, and just 29,600 will be for social rent. Meanwhile, 6,250 are set to be rural affordable homes.

Mr  Jenrick said: “Creating more opportunities for homeownership is central to this government. This £9bn funding is a landmark moment for our affordable homes programme and will ensure good quality housing for all as we build back better after the pandemic.

“This huge funding package will make the ambition of owning a home a reality for families by making it realistic and affordable.”

But some so-called “affordable homeownership” schemes have required prospective homeowners to have saved a deposit with a stable income to be considered for a mortgage.

In London, “affordable” shared ownership properties can be open to people earning as much as £90,000, while outside the capital they can be open to people on an £80,000 salary.

The housing secretary added:  “We are also ensuring tens of thousands of new homes for rent are built in the years ahead, including social rent, so those on the lowest incomes can enjoy good quality, secure, rented homes, built and managed by reputable providers.” 

Housing tenure is considered a large predictor of how a person votes, with renters typically supporting Labour and owners backing the Tories.

The government has pledged to build up to 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s but is set to miss this target by a decade. In 2019, UK housebuilding fell to its lowest quarterly rate for three years, and in 2020, housebuilding output dropped by a fifth.

Lib Dem Spokesperson for Housing Tim Farron said: “With social housing waiting lists now over 500,000, this is too little, too late. The Government should be making delivering social housing the main priority, not an afterthought.

“This announcement once again completely overlooks rural communities which are being turned into ghost towns because of excessive second homeownership. From Cornwall to Cumbria, the Government has well and truly turned their back on our rural towns and villages.”

Time to rewrite the CV?

Dominic Raab accused of being ‘missing in action’ as he was on holiday when Kabul fell to Taliban – The Telegraph

Dominic Raab slapped down by ex-head of Army for beach holiday while Kabul fell – Mirror

Tory criticism mounts over Dominic Raab’s handling of Afghanistan crisis – The Guardian

Dominic Raab under pressure as delegated Afghanistan phone call never took place – The Telegraph

Afghanistan blame game erupts as British soldiers fly home – The Times

Dominic Raab ‘will be “toast” at the next reshuffle’ – Daily Mail

Dominic Raab ‘faces axe’ after up to 9,000 people left stranded in Afghanistan… – The Sun

PM claims to back Dominic Raab, but a government insider reckons he’s toast – The Canary

Dominic Raab’s BBC interview savaged as he slams ‘ridiculous’ claims he’ll be sacked – Express

‘Control freak Dominic Raab is toast in the next reshuffle’, govt source claims – Daily Advent

Johnson and Raab blasted for cringe photo op at Afghanistan crisis centre – Mirror

Might a little bit of judicious CV “airbrushing” be needed? – Owl