Caught short on community toilets

January 29 2019

COUNCILLORS have demanded a review of the controversial community toilets scheme amid concerns residents are being caught short.

The project, which calls on businesses, organisations and charities to open up their loos to the public, was launched last year when the city council shut all 18 of the city’s on-street public loos, including those on Fishponds Road at the edge of Fishponds Park, along with a number of other toilets in parks, including those at Eastville Park.

Campaigners argued the closures, made to save the city council £440,000 a year, would affect the most vulnerable, including the elderly, children and disabled people.

A report to the council’s communities scrutiny commission on January 14 said there were now 84 such community toilet sites across Bristol.

But members expressed concerns the scheme had set no minimum distances someone would be expected to walk to the nearest available public loo or the hours they should be open.

In Fishponds the toilets currently open to the public are:

• Fishponds Library

• The Van Dyck Forum

• Porto Lounge

• Snuff Mills

• Oldbury Court Estate

Commission chairman Gary Hopkins said: “It’s a pretty vital resource the city council is generally expected to provide.

“The number of operators is ok  but the numbers don’t mean anything if they’re not in the right place or open when people need them. 

"A hundred toilets in Avonmouth are not much use to someone in Bedminster.

“We need some standard of how far people are expected to go to find a toilet at defined times of the day.”

Officers also admitted retailers were failing to sign up to the scheme because they were not permitted to refuse entry to anyone using their loos.

Neighbourhood services manager Lindsay Hay said: “There is a reluctance in some city centre shops, particularly because of the ongoing issues they already experience in the way toilets are used.”

But she added: “In terms of distribution and provision, it’s a very significant increase.”