Torbay loos to have ‘fair use’ policy

Some people to be allowed to pee for free (but not too much)

Paul Nero

Torbay Council is to introduce a ‘fair-use’ policy for vulnerable people and beach hut users at its public loos.

As part of its budget for next year, the council is giving free ‘passes’ to some people in the area so they can use public lavatories without charge.

But the free-to-pee policy comes with a sting in the tail: the council may be watching so that people don’t spend a penny too often.

Torbay Council, which is run by an alliance of Liberal Democracts and local independent politicians, is putting up council tax by three per cent from April, including a one per cent uplift to improve social care for adults.

With some of the extra cash raised, it is going to invest £1 million upgrading car parks and another million on climate change initiatives.

But among its more inspiring plans is to introduce free loo passes for vulnerable people, and people who hire council beach huts.

The idea has cross-party support.

On its website, the council says: “To keep all of our toilets in a clean and a ‘home from home’ environment we have a fee paying system.” 

Currently it costs 30 pence to use a public loo in Torbay. 

The council had already announced an investment of £1.7 million for upgrading its WCs and it outsources maintenance to a private company called Healthmatic.

In a meeting to approve its new budget from April onwards, it didn’t define which vulnerable people would be eligible for loo passes, but it did point out that both they and beach hut users would be subject to a ‘fair usage policy’ when using the toilets.

It is unclear how many bowel movements or wees per day will count as fair use.

Nor has the council said how it will be monitoring the policy.

‘Fair use’ is a pricing policy often deployed by mobile phone companies selling unlimited data, but nonetheless wanting to limit the data. Torbay Council could well be a pioneer in using the strategy for public lavatories.

Free loo-use provided you don’t take the pee.

Based on the council considering it fair for a vulnerable person to use a public loo, say, three times a week, a Torbay Council loo pass could save eligible individuals £47 a year.

A family of four hiring a beach hut for three months a year and visiting, say, three times a week, with each person going to the loo twice a day, would save about £275.

Some of Torbay’s beaches have pitches for privately owned beach huts as well as some permanent chalets and cabins. Others can be hired at a cost of up £146 a week.

The free loo passes will cost the council a total of £75,000 a year. 

Other Devon councils already allow people to wee for free, but financial pressures is causing some of them to look into their toilets’ provision.

Through the local democracy reporting scheme, Radio Exe has asked Torbay Council to define ‘fair usage’ for loo use, and whether different fair usage allowances will apply to beach hut holders and vulnerable people.

By the time of publication, it hadn’t responded.