Access to a toilet is a human right – closing public loos is one austerity cut too many

Councils have shut one in seven public conveniences, but the people can’t just cross their legs and wait

One in seven public toilets have been closed by local authorities in the wake of government funding cuts
One in seven public toilets have been closed by local authorities in the wake of government funding cuts

Members of the public are being denied a basic human right, according to campaigners who say that public toilets are being closed at an alarming rate to save cash – often without any consultation.

Freedom of Information requests to councils all over the UK revealed that, between 2010 and 2013, local authorities have shut one in seven public loos. In Gwynedd two thirds were closed and in some boroughs, including Wandsworth, there are now no public toilets at all.

Councils are selling off public property to raise revenue as government cuts take effect. Toilets have become tanning salons, wine bars, fast food outlets and cafes. This is denying the public an essential service – one in seven of us haven’t stopped wanting to urinate, and older people will often feel uncomfortable brazenly walking into pubs and restaurants and asking if they can use the facilities.

In big cities, it’s easy enough to find a mainline station, hotel or a department store to find a bathroom, but often retailers situate the toilets on the top floor, as far from the street as possible – not great if you have a weak bladder. Petrol stations often make you ask for a key. At a small railway station the other day, I had to pass inspection by the ticket clerk before it was handed over – presumably I don’t look like a hard drug user.

As a keen rambler, I know that public toilets save embarrassment and humiliation. Walking has become more popular, and even remote paths can have plenty of users on weekends. Why should I have to look for a wall, a bush or a giant rock to squat behind, and hope that no one is walking in the opposite direction? Public toilets used to be situated in the car parks at beauty spots, but now you find them locked and boarded up.

In inner cities, it’s even worse. I lived in the borough of Islington for more than 20 years, on the edge of an area where the council granted clubs and bars late-night licences and permitted a large number of new restaurants to open. Every single public toilet in the area was eventually closed. Residents had to get used to walking around pools of vomit and urine every weekend morning, left by the previous night’s visitors.

Why can’t public toilets be sponsored, carry advertising or charge a small fee? It’s not as if we can stop a natural bodily function, or make it wait another hour till we get home. Councils should be compelled by law to provide toilets at suitable locations. Of course, the people that run local government have their own offices and expenses and probably don’t actually walk around the streets and countryside they manage. If they did, they’d know that this is one cut too many.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in