EDDC to look at budget for beach cleans and reopening of public toilets

Litter from the Surfers against Sewage beach clean in Sidmouth

Litter from the Surfers against Sewage beach clean in Sidmouth - Credit: Archant

A move which will allow the district’s beaches, parks and streets to be kept clean and for more public toilets to be reopened has been recommended for approval.

In an attempt to make budget savings to close the budget deficit from COVID-19 response, the StreetScene seasonal budget of £131,000 was earmarked not to be used this summer by the council.

But Andrew Hancock, service lead of StreetScene, has put forward a report to East Devon District Council’s cabinet that says: “It is now clear that we cannot maintain the required standards or keep bins emptied without using this budget.

“Using the agency resource will allow us to keep beaches, parks and streets clean in the face of increased demand, restoring staffing to our normal levels.”

He is recommending that the budget be restored.

Due to COVID-19, a greater degree of cleaning is required of public toilets, Mr Hancock says, adding: “The teams who are operating at 20 per cent less capacity due to shielding and vulnerable workers being absent are really struggling with the basics of emptying seafront bins, litter picking the beaches and clearing up side waste – where people have kindly litter picked...

“On a normal summer day during the school holidays, our operatives would empty the bins three times per day, with occasional evening bin runs when very busy. Visitor numbers over the past few weeks have meant that our operatives are emptying bins at least five times per day, and even this is not enough.”

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On the reopening of more public toilets, five options are being presented to the cabinet.

His report adds: “The problem of public toilet availability is compounded by cafes and pubs not providing toilet facilities. Even when hospitality re-opens it’s likely it will not be as simple as it was for people to access private sector toilet facilities.”

Public toilets provision is a discretionary service and therefore not one that councils are required to provide, but Mr Hancock said: “The risk of not opening the existing 10 toilets longer, or opening more toilets is one of public dissatisfaction as well as public health. People are relieving themselves outside of closed facilities and in bushes around our parks and beaches, if this persists or gets worse it could create a public health issue.”

Recommendation have been made to cabinet to adjust the budget so StreetScene can meet statutory responsibilities, and review the options for reopening further public toilet provision, as well as approve a communications effort to explain why there is only a restricted opening and to approve a long term review of public toilet stock.