Outcry at plans for unisex loo and a 20p charge to use Keynsham park toilets

Published on: 06 May 2014

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A plan to reduce the number of public toilets in Keynsham Memorial Park and introduce a charge to use them has been met with opposition – including from the organiser of the town’s music festival and all six of the town's B&NES councillors, who have launched a petition.

Council contractor Healthmatic Ltd has submitted proposals to revamp the existing ladies’, gents’ and disabled access toilets, installing one disabled access bathroom with baby-changing facilities and one unisex bathroom with one cubicle instead.

New coin-entry doors – usually charging 20p – would also be installed on the block, leading some regular park users to raise fears that some visitors will opt to use the land around the site instead.

Healthmatic, which works with more than 90 local authorities around the country, says, however, that charging helps to deter crime and anti-social behaviour at its facilities. The block would also be fitted with sensors and alarms to detect vandals and unwanted behaviour.

In documents handed to B&NES planners, the company, which works with more than 90 local authorities across the UK, said: “Access to safe hygienic public WC is is a basic biological human need. Planning decisions must, therefore, support the regeneration of such facilities and plan positively for the future.”

In a letter to B&NES planners, however, two members of the Community Plot in the Park group, which tends a vegetable patch next to the toilets, said they were concerned the plans could present a health and safety hazard if people chose to use nearby land to relieve themselves instead of waiting in a queue or paying a fee to use the toilets.

They said: “We are very concerned that this will lead to the fruit and vegetables being damaged by people trampling on them and contaminating them.”

Ric Davison, organiser of Keynsham Music Festival, which brings thousands of people to the park each summer, said the loss of toilets could drive people away from the popular site.

He said: “The reduction of facilities outlined in this proposal is a great concern. As is the introduction of a cost. On a busy day in the park with parents and multiple children this will represent a severe waiting time and a deterrent to using the park.

He added: “As organiser of the Keynsham Music Festival I also see a further considerable issue with this – regardless of the extra facilities we hire in.”

Councillor Charles Gerrish (Cons, Keynsham North), who is the lead petitioner on behalf of the six councillors, said: “We’ve received a huge number of complaints from members of the public objecting to these plans. 

“We of course welcome investment to modernise the park’s toilets and bring them up to a better standard, including baby changing and disabled facilities.  But the vast majority of people we’ve spoken to have said that the reduction in capacity to having just one unisex toilet and one disabled toilet is totally unacceptable.  Residents are also concerned by reports that the hours of operation could be curtailed.

“As a result of these concerns, and the lack of consultation by B&NES, we’ve launched a petition against the planned reduction in provision, which we then present to B&NES Council.”

The plans are avilable to view online at www.bathnes.gov.uk and comments from the public are being accepted until May 15.


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