Conservatives welcome U-turn on public toilet closures

Conservative councillors have welcomed the news that Bath and North East Somerset Council is to keep open a number of public toilets which had been under threat of closure.

In a major U-turn for the Liberal Democrat-run authority, the Council has announced that toilets in Weston, Larkhall, Peasedown St John, Combe Down and Twerton will remain open for at least another twelve months. Toilets at Gullock Tyning in Midsomer Norton and Ashton Way in Keynsham are to remain open until replacements are provided, whilst those in Charlotte Street and Shaftesbury Road in Bath are to continue until 2020.

It is understood that that the private operator has agreed to take on the running of the Charlotte Street and Shaftesbury Road public toilets at no extra cost to the Council.

The announcement marks a significant victory for local Conservatives, who have campaigned to save the area’s public toilets from closure and had argued that the Council could squeeze better value out of its new contract in order to keep more toilets open.

The area’s public toilets won a reprieve in September when the Council voted in favour of a Conservative proposal which called on B&NES to rethink its closure plan.

Conservative Shadow Neighbourhoods spokesman, Cllr Geoff Ward, said:

“The fact that B&NES has bowed to public pressure and is to keep open more of our area’s public toilets marks a great victory for all the residents who have campaigned against these toilet closures. It’s just a shame it took a huge public petition and a vote at Full Council to force the Lib Dems to listen to local concerns.

“Conservatives argued that the Council could squeeze better value for money out of its public toilets contract in order to keep more toilets open, and we feel we have been proved right on this. We still believe the Council could negotiate even more out of this contact to enable more toilets to remain open for good.

“Now that these toilets have been saved for at least another year, we will continue to press the Council to find ways of securing the future of public toilet provision for the long term.”

The public toilet in Weston village will remain open for at least another year whilst the Council continues to explore alternative options. Weston councillor Colin Barrett (Cons) has recently secured a commitment from Tesco that it will provide public toilets as part of an expansion of its Express store in the village.

Councillor Barrett (Cons, Weston) commented:

“Residents in Weston will be greatly relieved to hear that our village’s public toilet will remain open for at least another year. It’s vital that our High Street continues to have public toilet provision, and the strength of feeling amongst residents was demonstrated by the hundreds of local people who signed a petition I organised against the closure. I have secured an agreement from Tesco that it will provide a publicly available toilet within its expanded store, but I would like to see residents consulted on whether this is an acceptable replacement before any further moves to close our existing loos.”