Toilets review: Sidmouth councillor warns of ‘backwards step for civilisation’

The toilets at Sidmouth's Three Cornered Plot

The toilets at Sidmouth's Three Cornered Plot - Credit: Archant

Any move that restricts access to public toilets would be a ‘backwards step for civilisation’, a Sidmouth councillor has warned.

Independant Cathy Gardner. Ref shs 3699-09-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Independant Cathy Gardner. Ref shs 3699-09-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

East Devon District Council (EDDC) papers say its asset management forum will consider a range of opportunities to cut costs for the facilities – including paid access or leasing some to businesses.

Councillor Cathy Gardner questioned where the authority’s priorities lie as it spends more than £100,000 to support Honiton’s Thelma Hulbert Gallery (THG).

She told Wednesday’s joint overview and scrutiny committee meeting: “This is the most appalling item I have seen on a budget since I have been on the council. Our MP said that we have to make choices. This is a choice the council should consider extremely carefully.

“We are spending money on arts provision and supporting projects a lot of people aren’t happy with. We’re increasing budgets on other things while we are looking at something so basic as public toilets. This is such a backwards step for civilisation. We have to think about what this council’s priorities are.”

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Cllr Gardner said a reduction in access to public toilets will particularly impact tourists, the elderly, parents with young children and people with bladder and bowel problems.

Cllr Eleanor Rylance said: “In Victorian times there was much building of toilets, for good reason. Public loos are there to prevent people urinating in the streets.”

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Exmouth’s Cllr Jill Elson said she had received 25 emails from residents opposing charges within hours of a story on the review appearing in the Herald’s sister paper the Exmouth Journal.

EDDC chief executive Mark Williams said: “It’s a review. It will look at issues like vandalism or if we need more toilets.

“It’s something we’re being asked to look at.”

Cllr Philip Skinner said: “At asset management forum there was no mention of closures.

“It was about how we can improve the facilities we’ve got. It’s a process of opening a discussion. There was no-one saying we’re going to close them.”

The agenda papers say town and parish councils will be consulted on potential alternative uses for the public toilets.

The review is yet to be considered by EDDC’s full council.

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