Spending more than a penny: Saffron Walden public toilets debate continues

Public toilets letter

Public toilets letter - Credit: Archant

Would you pay £3 to spend a penny?

Tax-payers could be faced with the fee if plans to transfer the running of the town’s public toilets go ahead.

Saffron Walden Town Council had agreed to take on the running of the Hill Street facilities from the Uttlesford District Council (UDC), subject to certain conditions, but are now reviewing their decision after fears that the promised contributions from the district council are inadequate.

“It’s really time that UDC takes responsibility – it takes, it takes, it takes,” said Councillor David Watson at a meeting of the town council last Thursday night.

“We need to have the toilets but they [UDC] must understand they are part of the problem, and they need to be part of solving the problem.”

A £120,000 refurbishment of the facilities by UDC is currently out to tender, while a further £100,000 has been promised if the town council takes on the responsibility.

But town clerk Gordon Mussett estimates the amount would not cover the management even for the life-time of the next council.

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“It’s probably going to cost a council tax payer £3 a year to look after the toilets – to spend a penny,” he told the Reporter.

An alternative to taking on the running costs would be to set up a Community Toilet Scheme as used in other towns, where cafes and pubs would be on board to allow passing residents and visitors the possibility of using their conveniences.

Councillor Nicholas Osborne was not in agreement that the community would be best served by the likes of Costa and Starbucks. “As someone with two small children I find the public toilets invaluable,” he told the chamber, adding: “I believe we would be able to run the toilets better than the district council.”

It was agreed to have further negotiations on the future of the facilities with the district council.

An Uttlesford District Council spokesman said: “Regardless of which council holds responsibility for them, the Hill Street toilets will be fully refurbished and will continue to be open to the public.

“We hope the refurbishment work can be carried out in the spring.”