Public toilets takeover debate sees councillors make another U-turn


- Credit: Archant

Yet another U-turn in the public toilets saga will see Saffron Walden Town Council pressing forward with the running of the contested facilities.

The town’s Hill Street cubicles have been the subject of prolonged debate since the town council reviewed its initial decision, made last August, to take them over from Uttlesford District Council.

But at an extraordinary town council meeting last night (Wednesday), members voted to go ahead with the takeover, following an address on the matter by district council leader Howard Rolfe.

Town Councillor Mike Hibbs, who along with Cllr Beryl Wardley voted against the move, was not convinced by the chamber’s decision.

“I have to say while I am absolutely in favour of the town council taking over the toilets, I still can’t see why we’ll have a state of the art toilet at the top of the ramp [by Waitrose] and ones with faulty drainage 40 yards at the bottom of the ramp,” he told the Reporter, referring to the new facilities, open from August, which are to be built as part of the supermarket’s refurbishment.

“There’s £220,000 going into this and it would be much better spent on a toilet at Swan Meadow,” he added.

The £120,000 promised by UDC towards the refurbishment of the toilets, as well as a further £100,000 towards the running of the facilities, had been considered by some members as inadequate, with town clerk Gordon Mussett estimating the money would only last for the council’s next term, and would then cost the public “£3 to spend a penny” in increased council tax.

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Cllr Doug Perry told the Reporter: “The town is judged by its toilets. It’s better that we have control than some other body, because at the moment they are in a disgusting state.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I think it’s a very positive step in that I think we can do a better job than the district council.”

Currently, the tenders for the toilets’ refurbishment are being optioned by UDC, with various designs then to be presented to the town council’s new toilets working group in the next few weeks.

“It’s right that the public toilets should be looked after on a town level,” said UDC director of finance and corporate services Adrian Webb, who claimed the model had worked well in Dunmow and Thaxted, where responsibility for public toilets have also been transferred from district to town council.