Contestants vie to join the loo roll of honour: Andrew Morgan joined a tour of inspection by judges looking for the best place to go when on the move

MOTORWAY service stations, so often vilified for their poor facilities, struck back yesterday when the Welcome Break at Fleet on the M3 in Hampshire won the Loo of the Year Award.

The lavatories (north and southbound) have attracted the attention of contest judges for the past six years, but have only now earned formal recognition. Their prize, presented in London, was a brass toilet seat for the wall.

In a further coup, Granada Services at Thurrock was named national winner in the disabled section. Sheffield Town Hall took the municipal title, while facilities at Carsington Reservoir, Derbyshire, dominated the leisure category.

Among the regional winners was the Bath Spa Hotel. Its impact was clear last month when the Independent followed two judges, examining some of the 1,300 nominations, to witness the assessment criteria.

The Bath Spa, named last year as the RAC's Five-Star Hotel of the Year, had some distinct toilet touches: a model bike, six inches high, with a basket full of free condoms. The bike has a sign: 'Buy Me and Stop One', possibly from a rag mag, circa 1972. There were five varieties of mineral water and some ear-cleaners on a stick.

'Best place in the world to go to the toilet? A five-star hotel,' whispered David Jackson, a judge from the Tidy Britain Group, working incognito. 'Very, very nice. Free condoms were a new one on me. Can't beat class.'

There was less in the way of celebration yesterday at East Street toilets in Bristol, attended by Ray Williams and nominated for being clean and 'free of perverts'. Mr Williams, entered in the municipal section, displayed his spotless cubicles, while the judges listened to his woeful tales of lingering glue sniffers. His toilets were impressive, complete with pictures of his grandchildren, but hanging baskets or plants might have helped. He was pipped for the area title by loos near the bandstand at Teignmouth, Devon. 'An attended toilet needs that little something to lift it,' Mr Jackson said.

Some nearby lavatories, unnominated, were closer to the norm: smashed windows, rafts of paper on the drenched floor, the Gents smelling of lukewarm beer. Such conditions contribute to Britain's reputation for having the worst public loos in northern Europe, apart, perhaps, from the pissoirs of Paris.

Disgust with the situation led Susan Cunningham to form the pressure group, All Mod Cons. She said: 'Many people don't drink enough liquid when they go out because they're frightened the toilets will be so filthy they won't want to use them.' Some even claim that it is more hazardous to use public lavatories than to use the roads.

Dr Philip Ross, consultant in medical microbiology at Edinburgh University, is sceptical of this but the state of public lavatories worries him. Just sitting on toilet seats, pulling chains or turning on the taps can lead to contamination with viruses. Poor washing allows the spread of microbes responsible for dysentery and hepatitis. 'Thumbs are missed by many people,' laments Dr Ross. 'Most public loos need improvement, but the spread of disease can be avoided with good washing technique.'

This is the mantra at Cheltenham General Hospital, with 200,000 out-patients a year, where David Jackson and his fellow judge, Fiona Chalmers, had a misty-eyed session in 13 toilets.

Gone were the boring cream emulsion walls, covered in naive sketches of male organs. In their place is rag-rolled red paintwork on walls, murals reminiscent of ancient Greece, and curtains run up in the hospital's fabrics department.

'Give people something smart to respect and they respect it,' said Zoe Greenwell, domestic services adviser, who was once confronted with faeces smeared behind cisterns. The loos were yesterday a regional winner.

There was no mention, though, for Stroud District Council offices in a converted mill, an optimistic contestant in the disabled section. 'Not enough bars or other aids,' sniffed Mr Jackson. 'A common fault.'

And the worst he has seen? 'Personal opinion, but some in a car park in Durham City. Tourists remember the awful toilets rather than a world heritage cathedral. A sad statement in modern-day Britain - but true.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn