Nearly 1,300 people have shared their views on the future of East Devon’s public toilets and how £3million should be spent, to help lower running costs in years to come for tax payers.
This report contains the recommendations going to Cabinet from a 2 hrs 35 mins Overview Committee meeting and link to the consultation report.
The authority is not able to afford to continue to run the 27 public toilets it owns as it has done in the past – in 2019 East Devon District Council (EDDC) paid more than £15,000 on average to run each toilet block.
Investments in the toilet buildings is more vitally important now than it has ever been before, to reduce costs. EDDC needs to make hundreds of thousand of pounds in savings in order to balance next year’s budget, because of rising costs and reductions in funding from Government.
A consultation was run for two months through August and September 2021, and asked residents to look at proposals that categorised toilets (a, b or c) depending on the location and the walking distance to key areas such as a town centre, beach or large park and how well-used they are.
‘Category A’ toilets are sites that will be refurbished, and brought up to expected standards if they don’t already meet them, 80 per cent of residents agreed EDDC’s toilets needed this.
‘Category B’ toilets are sites that are less well used or where there are multiple toilets in a 4 to 8 minute walk from one another. EDDC will be looking at other uses for these sites – like a café with a public toilet or by inviting town or parish councils and community groups to run them.
‘Category C’ toilets are sites EDDC can no longer afford to run and are less used or are in locations served by other facilities. Town councils and community groups will be invited to operate these if they wish.
A total of 18 expressions of interest were made to run or use a public toilet space differently, including cafés, a cycling hub, a bike café, business funding of sites proposed for alternative uses, a community/eco hub, a tourist information point, a takeaway and a tea room.
The idea for ‘pay-to-use’ toilets was support by 56 per cent of respondents – this would help pay for the running costs of the toilets and could help generate £200k a year. Based on the opinions of residents in the consultation this will probably be by contactless card, at possibly 30p – it has been noted that cash is costly to collect and invites vandalism. More than 40 per cent said a discount card should be available to people who can’t afford to pay or those with medical needs.
Here are some the toilets specifically mentioned by residents in the consultation:
Sidmouth Market Place/Port Royal (Cat B) – 58 per cent of respondents from Sidmouth didn’t agree with this categorisation/alternative use. Specific feedback was that both toilets should stay as they are needed and well used. Outside of the view that it should all be kept, some suggested the Triangle should be closed and Market/Port Royal kept open instead.
EDDC plans to talk to town and parish councils, including Sidmouth Town Council, before categories are finalised – like where there has been an interest in taking on or funding the facilities.
Budleigh Salterton – Station Rd (Cat B) – 79 per cent of respondents from Budleigh didn’t agree with this being a Cat B, saying these are the most central toilets and are used by shoppers, arriving bus and coach passengers and people using the car parks.
Exmouth – Orcombe Point (Cat B) – 55 per cent of respondents from Exmouth disagree with categorising saying they are not close enough to other public toilets and that these toilets are in constant use during the summer, so would be needed at least seasonally.
Exmouth Bus / Train Station (Cat C) – 52 per cent of respondents from Exmouth disagreed with this categorisation/offer to others to operate. They said it was a major arrival point with no other public toilets nearby, or on the Exmouth to Exeter trains.
Seaton – Harbour Rd (Cat B) – 65 per cent of respondents from Seaton disagreed with this categorisation. They said they were the main public toilets for people arriving at Seaton, as the toilets at the Tramway and Tesco was not well known or sign posted.
Seaton Hole (Cat B) – 62 per cent of respondents from Seaton disagreed with this categorisation. People said they were needed by coastal path visitors, as the next nearest toilets was a 25-minute walk unless you go along the beach which is not an easy route for some.
Colyton Dolphin St (Cat C) – 100 per cent of respondents from Colyton disagreed with this categorisation, saying it was the only toilet in the town which has 90,000 tourists a year.
Honiton King St (Cat C) – 88 per cent of respondents from Honiton disagreed with this categorisation at it would only leave one public toilet in Honiton if it closed.
EDDC’s Overview Committee made a number of recommendations which will go before EDDC’s Cabinet next week (Youtube recording of extraordinary meeting of the Overview Committee 25 November which lasted 2hrs 35 mins can be found here):
- Requested that more detailed water usage data for toilets EDDC own and that toilets are more regularly assessed so they can be broken down to show how popular toilets are at certain points of the day/year.
- Requested that town/parish councils are offered one final opportunity to retain Category B and C toilets if leases with community partner organisations cannot be struck within 12 months.
- Requested that the council write to all local businesses and make a powerful case for them to offer the use of their toilets to non-paying customers who may have disabilities and illnesses that aren’t always visible, given the findings of the local consultation which shows the high extent of local need.
- Establishes the principle of charging for Category A toilets such charges to be made and calculated so as to cover the costs of their refurbishment and retention together with careful consideration of the choice of private partners and the option of using cash.
- Acknowledge the historic, well-publicised and in parts still live, legal and governance issues within Honiton Town Council, and the fact that they require extra time to make finances and resourcing available for taking over King Street public toilets despite their early inclined desire, and to agree to make a special case to keep these toilets open for a further two years rather than one to allow time for them to make the necessary arrangements to inherit and manage the asset.
- For the council to write to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to request that he lobbies the treasury for a fund to be created to help councils further invest in public toilet provision and to make toilets a mandatory rather than discretionary service given their positive role in ensuring people with health issues can live their lives to their full potential.
Read the full report on the public toilets consultation here.
Category A Toilets
- Axminster – West Street Car Park Public Toilets – Running costs – £16,258.12 a year.
- Budleigh Salterton – Cliff Path (West End / Steamer) Public Toilets. Running costs – £15,271.54 a year.
- Budleigh Salterton – East End (Lime Kiln) Public Toilets. Running costs – £18,279.88 a year.
- Beer – Jubilee Gardens Public Toilets. Running costs – £39,692.09 a year.
- Exmouth – Foxholes Car Park Public Toilets. Running costs – £22,543.95 a year.
- Exmouth – Magnolia Centre (London Inn) Public Toilets. Running costs – £28,881.03 a year.
- Exmouth – Manor Gardens Public Toilets. Running costs – £24,599.32 a year.
- Exmouth – Queens Drive Public Toilets. Running costs – £20,495.53 a year.
- Exmouth – Phear Park Public Toilets. Running costs – £12,893.16 a year.
- Honiton – Lace Walk Public Toilets. Running costs – £27,365.82 a year.
- Seaton – West Walk Public Toilets. Running costs – £33,670.32 a year.
- Sidmouth – Connaught Gardens Public Toilets. Running costs – £28,251.07 a year.
- Sidmouth – Triangle Public Toilets. Running costs – £22,100.20 a year.
- Sidmouth – Market Place Toilets would be retained depending on any redevelopment of these sites, or there would be new alternative provision. This would be a prime tourist / town centre location. Running costs – £40,588.09 a year for the Market Place and £7,407 for Port Royal.
Category B Toilets
- Budleigh Salterton – Station Road Car Park Public Toilets. The site has potential for redevelopment together with the Lower Station Road Car Park. Running costs – £15,021.62 a year.
- Exmouth – Imperial Recreation Ground Public Toilets. This site is about a four minute walk from the toilets in Manor Gardens. However, it could offer a very good café / bar. Running costs – £24,058.37 a year.
- Exmouth – Orcombe Point Public Toilets. Around a four minute walk to the larger Foxholes toilet block. Running costs – £6,371.78 a year.
- Exmouth – The Maer Public Toilets. Could be better used as a cafe/bar with community toilets, potential link with BBQ area. Running costs – £8,951.94 a year.
- Seaton – Harbour Road Car Park Public Toilets. Proximity map shows the town is served by West Walk public toilets. Running costs – £26,972.73 a year.
- Seaton – Hole Public Toilets. Proximity map shows the town is best served by West Walk public toilets, with additional ones available at Tesco and the Chine Hideaway cafe. Running costs – £25,142.83 a year.
- Sidmouth – Market Place Public Toilets. Significant redevelopment opportunity as town centre site. Running costs – £40,588.09 a year.
- Sidmouth – Port Royal (Alma Bridge) Public Toilets. Potential for commercial use tied to Port Royal. Running costs – £7,407 a year.
Category C Toilets
- Budleigh Salterton – Brook Road Car Park Public Toilets. Running costs – £1,761.94 a year.
- Colyton – Dolphin Street Car Park Public Toilets. Running costs – £7,105.87 a year.
- Exmouth – Bus / Train Station Public Toilets. Very low usage. This site is at a gateway to the town, but directly benefits the station and could be operated by others. The building can’t be used as anything other than a public toilet. Could be re-modelled as part of the Motorhome parking project pending councillor approval. Running costs – £24,541.37 a year.
- Exmouth – Jarvis Close Public Toilets. Running costs – £10,000.23 a year.
- Honiton – King Street Car Park Public Toilets. Proximity maps show the town is well served by Lace Walk Public Toilets. Running costs – £11,534.96 a year.
- Seaton – Marsh Road Public Toilets. Proximity maps show that the town is well served by West Walk public toilets. Tesco in Seaton have publically accessible toilets, as do the Chine Hideaway cafe and other attractions. Running costs – £20,910.43 a year.