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Have your say on Public Toilets
Have your say on Public Toilets

This consultation closed on 1 October 2021

Right toilet in the right place – a public toilet review 2021

We need to modernise and update our public toilets with over £3million of capital investment, looking at where they are and alternative uses for some sites to make best use of what we have. We want the best modern loos in the right place, suitable for all, which will be clean hygienic and less costly to maintain.

There are 3 major issues with our public toilets in East Devon.

  1. There has been a lack of investment in and refurbishment of our public toilets over the years. The majority of these facilities are now difficult to maintain, to clean and many require major improvement works. 
  2. The recent public health emergency has highlighted that our facilities are very difficult to maintain to the new high standard of cleanliness and hygiene that users now expect.
  3. There is an increasing funding gap between our income and the day-to-day running costs of this service. This means for EDDC to continue to provide the services and facilities residents and visitors expect and require we need to review our current practices and adopt new ways of working.

East Devon District Council has always been keen to invest in its services to improve service delivery, achieve efficiencies and reduce running costs. Our recent investments have included a modern fleet of recycling and waste trucks and a subsequent change in the way we collect recycling and waste, to increase recycling and reduce residual collections to every 3 weeks. Many thought this was controversial at the time, and yet our communities rose to the challenge. Through this investment and planning we have increased our recycling rates, no waste to landfill, and kept our running costs down to become one of the top 10 recycling districts in the country.

We now want to carry out a similar exercise with a substantial capital investment in our public toilets, but with a plan to reduce our annual running costs to help meet our reductions of income. We therefore need to know what our residents, businesses, organisations, town and parish councils consider is important to them.

We cannot afford to maintain our current service, and here is why; East Devon District Council has always strived to deliver good quality services and facilities for its residents and visitors. This has been done whilst always setting a balanced budget. However, successive reductions in central government funding over the last 10 years has made this increasingly difficult. By 2022, we expect to face a £3m funding gap unless we change the way we operate.

Financial challenge

This funding gap will impact on the services we offer. In 2019 £473,000 was spent on directly running the public convenience service. This provided 30 public toilet sites, 26 owned and operated by the council and 4 maintained for others. It amounts to an average of £15,766 a year to look after each toilet block, this includes the maintenance of the toilets and providing water, toilet rolls, cleaning them twice a day and management costs.

You can find out more about other costs such as depreciation of the capital assets and recharges in our Cabinet Report here.

We know that our residents expect high quality clean public toilets, and these have an important role to play in our visitor economy. However, we cannot afford to keep providing them as we currently do, unless significant savings are made. We also need to think about making the best financial use of our sites so we can continue to provide good quality public toilets into the future. An example of this would be the repurposing of the current location for alternative use such as a cafe with a public toilet being provided as part of this.

Alternative maintenance and services

Some local Authorities have subcontracted the provision of Public Conveniences out to a third party. We have investigated this thoroughly and we estimate the costs of paying a private company to run this service will be more expensive and therefore it is considered “in house” management, maintenance and staff will be the most efficient option.

The need to review our public toilets service.

This review listed the public toilets we currently have and proposed what could happen to them in the future to protect and improve important public toilets sites, whilst also balancing the costs of what we can afford.

It was based on some guiding principles to try to ensure we have the right toilet in the right place, these factors included:

  • How much the public toilets are used.
  • The proximity to other sites and walking distances for people to find a toilet.
  • Possible alternative uses, some of which could include public toilets provided by other businesses or organisations or additional amenity uses such as cafes and community facilities.
  • Opportunities for innovation, such as asking people to pay to use the toilets so we can continue to provide and invest in them.

The consultation

The consultation was open until 1 October 2021. All of the necessary information and a questionnaire to complete was available online, or in any other format requested. The consultation was publicised widely using a variety of methods. Anyone could have a look at the proposals and fill in the questionnaire, including residents and town and parish councils. All comments on the ideas and proposals needed to be made using the online questionnaire so they could be included in the subsequent results, analysis and reports in a meaningful way. 

We received almost 1,300 responses. We have now analysed the results of the consultation and these are detailed and linked to in our report for Overview Committee

The Overview Committee of Councillors debated the consultation results and Public Toilet Review proposals on 25 November 2021. You can find a recording of the meeting on YouTube. The Minutes of the meeting, including written recommendations from the meeting, will be posted on our website when they are available. 

The next stage is that the report, and accompanying recommendations, will be presented to Councillors at Cabinet for their debate and decision on 1 December 2021. As with most of our committees, there is an opportunity for public speaking. You will also be able to watch this meeting online on our YouTube Channel.

Other accompanying documents

Cabinet report 12 May 2021

These accompanying documents were also linked at the relevant point of the questionnaire:

The proximity to other sites and walking distances for people to find a toilet, these accompanying documents were also linked at the relevant point of the questionnaire:

Floor plans for proposed category B public toilets: 

Floor plans for proposed category C public toilets: