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Public Toilets


 Frome_Toilet_Macfadyen_Sept18  Cllr Peter Macfadyen promoting the You’re Welcome initiative

FROME Town Council has relaunched its “You’re Welcome” initiative, in which local organisations and businesses allow the public to use their toilets without needing to make a purchase. Four new businesses have signed up to the scheme, in return for a contribution of £250 from the council towards upkeep. Premises display a sticker in their windows, and the scheme also includes services such as free water ref lls to help cut down on single-use plastic.

 Clerks & Councils Direct September 2018


COPELAND MP Trudy Harrison has joined a community campaign to keep public toilets open at Grange in Borrowdale in Cumbria. The campaign to save the toilets is being led by a group of local residents. The toilets will close at the end of the summer and sold at auction if an agreement cannot be reached.

Clerks & Councils Direct September 2018


To celebrate the wedding of Prince Henry of Wales and Meghan Markle in May, SEVENOAKS Town Council in Kent has installed a bench in the Vine Gardens. It was unveiled by the town’s new mayor, Cllr Roderick Hogarth. Meanwhile Cllr Richard Parry, chairman of the open spaces and leisure committee, has offcially opened a new public toilet at Greatness Recreation Ground. A noticeboard has also been installed, giving information about events, meetings and emergency contact details. The town clerk, Linda Larter MBE, said: “These facilities have been provided as a response to requests from local residents. The funding has come from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which is paid by developers relating to their planning applications.

Clerks & Councils Direct, July 2018



Pictured (left to right) are:
Cllr Sarah Cockburn-Price; Jack Greenwood; Cllr Barry Hodgson, chair of Trawden Forest Parish Council; the mayor and mayoress, Cllr David and Mrs Barbara Whalley, who cut the ribbon; Martin and Jacquie Watson; and parish clerk Adele Waddington.

TRAWDEN FOREST Parish Council in Lancashire has recently completed the renovation of an Edwardian cast-iron gentleman's toilet. The rare structure, on Skipton Road, was declared unsafe in 2014 and closed off for public safety. After two years of discussion, the council decided that it should be restored and reopened. The urinal was originally installed for a local tramway in around 1903. It is believed that it came as a “flat-pack”, as the only bolts are in the guttering and all the other components are held in place by grooves and peg holes. The structure would originally have been smaller, with the outer panels added at a later date. Almost 12 months of work went into the renovation, and an opening ceremony was held on 30 April, attended by dignitaries and workers from Marlyn Engineering who carried out the project

Pictured (left to right) are Cllr Sarah Cockburn-Price; Jack Greenwood; Cllr Barry Hodgson, chair of Trawden Forest Parish Council; the mayor and mayoress, Cllr David and Mrs Barbara Whalley, who cut the ribbon; Martin and Jacquie Watson; and parish clerk Adele Waddington.

Clerks & Councils Direct, July 2018


SWANLEY Town Council in Kent has leased part of a former public toilet building to a new micro pub, the Cotton Mill. The business is the second tenant in the building, joining a taxi f rm. It will be open seven days a week from 7am until 11pm, selling drinks and snacks and with alcohol on sale from 10am daily. It has an outdoor seating area, and is located near the town’s railway station. The new pub gives the town its fourth licensed premises. It offers a range of ales and will cater for events organised by the town council, including Armed Forces Day and the 1812 Charity Night. It was formally opened by local MP Sir Michael Fallon. At the ceremony, council CEO Steve Nash said: “This is a great use of a redundant facility. It will help increase footfall to the town and will generate valuable income for the town council.”

Clerks & Councils Direct, July 2018

 GODALMING Town Council in Surrey has agreed terms with Waverley Borough Council for the transfer of management of public toilets in Godalming town centre and the village of Farncombe. The town council has entered into a 20-year lease on both buildings, allowing them to reopen after their sudden closure by Waverley last year.

Clerks & Councils Direct May 2018

GREAT DAWLEY Town Council in Shropshire is to build new toilet facilities for the town, following consultation with members of the public, businesses and market traders, to replace a block that was demolished some years ago. The new toilets will include babychanging facilities, will be stomafriendly and accessible for disabled users, and will be free to use. The council is currently in the process of obtaining planning permission, and plans to open the new facilities by the summer. They will be sited in a central location, which will be covered by CCTV and high-standard lighting. The mayor, Cllr Jane Pinter, said: “I am really pleased the town council is installing new toilets. This will make our town more accessible and convenient for all.”

Clerks & Councils Direct March 2018

NEWPORT Parish Council on the Isle of Wight is planning to demolish an “eyesore” toilet block in the town and has been working with surveyors to develop a scheme for new unisex and disabled toilets. The block currently contains five female, two male (plus urinal) and one disabled toilet. Once demolished, it will be replaced by three toilet modules supplied by Swedish company Danfo, with landscaping of the surrounding public space and artwork by young people and local artists.

Clerks & Councils Direct November 2017


Over 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for public toilets in TYWYN to be kept open. The petition was handed to Gwynedd councillor Anne Lloyd Jones, following a campaign initiated by the South Meirionnydd Older People’s Forum.
Gwynedd Council has said that it “simply cannot afford” to keep all of its current toilets open, and facilities across the county are under threat. Dozens will close unless local communities can help to finance them.
Tywyn Town Council has made a commitment to keep toilets next to the cinema open, but is waiting for the county council to announce its plans before making a decision on a second facility on the seafront.
George Buckley of the Older People’s Forum said: “It’s vitally important that we maintain both sets of toilets. Without them, more vulnerable people will stay away from the area rather than be caught short. So many people have said that they’re quite willing to pay 20p for using the facilities.”  

Clerks & Councils Direct July 2017

GODALMING Town Council in Surrey expressed frustration after Waverley Borough Council announced the permanent closure of public toilets in Godalming and Farncombe from 19 June 2017 with just seven days’ notice. Cllr Stefan Reynolds said: “While we recognise that Waverley has severe budgetary pressures, it is very disappointing that it has decided to close the toilets without fully providing an alternative seven-day provision as it had promised.”

Clerks & Councils Direct July 2017


NEWBURY Town Council in Berkshire has installed paddle gates at The Wharf public toilets, and there is now a 20p charge to use the facility. The money raised will go towards maintenance and cleaning to ensure that the toilets are kept to acceptable standards.

Clerks & Councils Direct July 2017





WOKINGHAM Town Council in Berkshire contacted Clerks & Councils Direct last summer with a dilemma: it had for sale a modern public convenience that had to be removed quickly due to land development plans. The solution was to place an advertisement in the September 2016 issue. Mike Dunstan, the council’s planning and transportation officer, later reported: “I am delighted to inform you that we received serious enquiries from six parish councils around the country in response to our ad, and the outcome was that our toilet was taken away on 6 December to its new home in the parish of Hamsey, East Sussex.”
The photograph shows the loo leaving Wokingham en route to its new home.

Clerks & Councils Direct March 2017



FAVERSHAM Town Council in Kent has installed an accessible lift in its Guildhall to improve access to council meetings and other events held in the building. The project also included upgrades to toilet facilities to improve access and reconfiguration of the kitchen area. The project was part-funded with a grant of nearly £17,500 from Viridor Credits through the Landfill Communities Fund.

The Guildhall, which stands in the town’s Market Place, is a Grade II listed building that was once a market hall. The upper part was rebuilt in 1814, after celebrations of one of Wellington’s victories set the hall on fire.

The town’s mayor, Cllr Shiel Campbell, is pictured trying out the new lift.
Photo: Ian Read, Faversham Times

Clerks & Councils Direct January 2017



THE Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field, officially opened the WILLINGDON AND JEVINGTON Parish Council Office on 7 October with a speech and the cutting of a ribbon. He was thanked by the council’s chairman, Cllr John Pritchett BEM, who said that the project demonstrated partnership working at its very best between district, county and parish councils.

The new building in Jubilee Gardens is the parish’s first dedicated council office, and is part of a project that has also seen two public conveniences retained.

The opening ceremony was attended by local dignitaries, parish councillors, representatives of the architect and contractor, invited guests and local residents. Caroline Ansell MP said: “[This excellent project] reflects partnership working and smart use of authority assets. This contemporary new office sets the work of the council at the heart of the community and will provide an excellent working and meeting space.”

A resident commented: “So many public conveniences are being shut all over the country and we are very grateful we still have ours open.”

Clerks & Councils Direct January 2017




RESIDENTS of FROME in Somerset voted overwhelmingly in October in favour of adopting the town council’s Neighbourhood Plan. Of those who voted, 86 per cent were in favour. It will now form part of the Mendip District Local Development Plan.

Cllr Pippa Goldfinger, chair of Frome Town Council’s planning advisory group, said: “This is a major step forward in Frome’s campaign to have more say in what is built in the town. The Neighbourhood Plan has engaged hundreds of people in the making. That hard work has now paid off and we have our own planning document that must be considered when Mendip decides whether to approve planning applications.”

There was a postscript to the story when pranksters used the “thumbs up” image issued by the council to create posters that appeared in men’s toilets. These suggested that councillors had received training to carry out “free digito-rectal examinations” and urged people to call the council to make an appointment. Those behind the stunt claimed they were raising awareness of prostate cancer.

Town clerk Paul Wynne said: “The poster has not come from the council. I think it's just someone having a bit of fun. But the image is in the public domain – we can’t be precious about it.”

Clerks & Councils Direct January 2017



FARNHAM Town Council in Surrey has launched a new community toilet scheme in cooperation with local businesses. The initiative was launched at The Queen’s Head pub, whose landlady, Jessica Masterson-Smith, came up with the idea, having seen it in action in Australia.

She explained: “Pubs, restaurants and shops provide clean, safe and accessible toilet facilities during their opening hours without customers having to make a purchase to use them. Shoppers and residents really like it and it’s a straightforward, common-sense way for businesses to offer something to the town at very little cost.”

Similar schemes already operate in other areas of the UK, providing facilities without the need for large investment from public funds or the need to charge users. Many premises provide baby changing facilities and are accessible to people with disabilities.

The Farnham scheme will initially be piloted for a year. Participating businesses will display a specially designed logo in their windows, and a number have already signed up. The town council will pay each £200 per year towards the additional costs.

Clerks & Councils Direct November 2016


AN investigation by the BBC has confirmed that public toilets are closing at an alarming rate as councils seek to implement cuts to their budgets. A freedom of information request revealed that 1,782 council-run public toilets have closed across the country since 2006. Ten areas, including Newcastle, Merthyr Tydfil and Wandsworth in London, now have no public toilets at all on their high streets or in public spaces.

The research showed that four out of five councils have cut spending on toilets since 2011, and 22 councils now have only one public toilet left. A spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA) said that budget cuts meant that councils had less to spend, but were doing everything they could to keep public toilets open, including running community schemes with pubs, restaurants and shops to make their toilets available to the public.

Bucking the trend is WARMINSTER Town Council in Wiltshire, which has taken over two sets of public conveniences in the town centre after the county council decided to close them in April. Councillors voted unanimously to accept a quotation from contractor The Landscape Group of an annual cost of £18,858 to clean and secure the facilities at the town park and central car park; rates and utilities will cost extra.

The town council managed to quickly complete the paperwork needed for the transfer of ownership from Wiltshire Council and reopened the toilets on 1 June, a month earlier than anticipated. The facilities will be open from 7am until 7pm daily. The deputy mayor, Cllr Pip Ridout, said: “Members of the public have made their feelings known very strongly about this issue, so we’re thrilled that we can give them such good news.”

Clerks & Councils Direct July 2016


SoulburyToilet_May16.jpg SOULBURY Parish Council in North Bucks has recently become the sole corporate trustee of its Millennium Green, after a number of the original trustees resigned and it was asked to step in. A management committee was set up and took over the day-to-day running of the green, and work has progressed since then.


One major project recently completed is the installation of a public eco-toilet, which is based on a waterless system and is accessible to disabled users. Cllr Vic Wright, parish council chairman, and Alan Stevens, chairman of the management committee, are shown inspecting the facility. Plans are now in hand for a new storage facility for machinery, together with a visitor centre.

Clerks & Councils Direct May 2016


BELLINGHAM Parish Council in North Tyne is investigating ways to keep its public toilets open, after they were closed in December. The council has considered paying for the upkeep of the facilities itself, but decided that the annual cost of £6,000 was too high. It is now discussing options with Northumberland County Council.


Clerks & Councils Direct May 2016


Our community centre’s toilets are blocked by tree roots from a neighbouring property. What is the position regarding responsibility: can we bill the tree owner for repairs to the toilets, which will be quite expensive?

Cllr Howard Wright, Chairman, PLEASLEY Parish Council, Derbyshire

Paul Clayden writes: It is generally the case that roots which damage a neighbouring property constitute a nuisance in law. There is useful information on the web – see, for instance.

Clerks & Councils Direct January 2016


AMBLE Town Council Northumberland has reduced the opening hours of public toilets at its Tourist Information Centre to 8am to 5pm on weekdays, due to a combination of vandalism and cutbacks. The toilets were vandalised at the end of November, with approximately £1,500 of damage caused to the men’s and again in December.

Clerks & Councils Direct January 2016


CYNGOR Cymuned Llanengan has invested £80,000 to refurbish public toilets at Lôn Traeth, Abersoch, after purchasing the busy beachside facilities from Gwynedd Council, which had planned to close them, in 2011. The building has been fi nished to a very high standard, and also has an external shower.

This was the community council’s biggest ever expenditure, and funds from the precept and the Public Works Loan Board were supplemented by a £25,000 grant from the Welsh Government’s Tourism Investment Support Scheme (TISS).

The building was opened by Yvonne Lloyd-Jones, who recently retired after 25 years’ service as a councillor. She said: “I am delighted, and proud, to see the fruition of this project. This is a real investment in tourism in Abersoch, a faith in the future of which we can all be justifi ably proud.”

The council has also purchased 15 new dog waste bins to add to those provided by the county council, to cater for the increased numbers of visitors since the opening of the Welsh Coastal Path. The bins are differentiated by a Llanengan council logo designed by Mrs. Lloyd-Jones.

Cllr John Wynn Jones, Cyngor Gwynedd Council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “We are very proud to have worked with Cyngor Cymuned Llanengan on this innovative scheme, where it has taken ownership of the matter in aid of the local environment.”

LlanenganToiletsMar15.jpg   Clerks & Councils Direct March 2015

COUNCILLORS in FALMOUTH have been told that some members of the public are unhappy with new unisex toilets at Gyllyngvase beach. Cllr Candy Atherton said that the facilities were “not quite as private as they might be”. It was decided to revisit the issue after the summer.

Clerks & Councils Direct July 2014


SHROPSHIRE’S first publicly funded disabled Changing Places facility opened in April in Shrewsbury town centre. The facility at Butcher Row, an overhaul of an existing public toilet block, was designed by a local architecture fi rm. It contains male, female and disabled facilities and a baby changing area, all at ground level. Around £50,000 was spent on the facility, which caters for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets.

Town clerk Helen Ball said: “I am really pleased we have been able to reopen Butcher Row. The site looks fantastic and the Changing Places facility will ensure that the toilets are fully accessible for all.”

 Clerks & Councils Direct July 2014


THE small village of Llandrillo in Denbighshire (population 500) has as its focal point an open grassed area known as Y Wern. The site has had its own public conveniences since the 1960s, which were maintained through successive local government reorganisations, until in 1998 the county council cut budgets and closed toilets in most small villages.

In an effort to keep the toilets open, Llandrillo Community Council attempted to operate the facility independently, but the burden of the National Non- Domestic Rate (NNDR) bill, almost £500 a year, made the effort unsustainable. The toilets were closed, which meant that visitors used other corners of Y Wern to answer the call of nature. By 2002 the building was semi-derelict and was threatened with demolition.

As chair of the village primary school governing body, and with a background as an engineer, I and other residents undertook a market research exercise, questioning residents and visitors to determine the extent of demand for public conveniences. The community was also consulted via a letter-drop of around 200 questionnaires, which revealed almost unanimous support.

In May 2002 we prepared a feasibility report, which was submitted under the umbrella of the Llandrillo Public Convenience Access Group to the community council, the chief executive of Denbighshire County Council and the local MP and Welsh Assembly Member.

Within four weeks, the chief executive requested a meeting. Many meetings followed over the next 12 months to try to find a way through what seemed a tangled heap of red tape, but eventually a submission for funds for building refurbishment works was made to the local authority.

Plans for the renovations were prepared with significant input by the Access Group to incorporate energy- and watersaving features. The plans were presented to open public meetings at the village hall, which also gave an opportunity to formulate a permanent constitution for the group. The Access Group engaged legal advice to draw up a 20-year lease agreement with the county council; this vital ingredient took two years to complete.

Finally, the facility opened in August 2005, on the day of the village carnival, and has now operated successfully for almost eight years, with no charge to the user. This is a massive commitment for a small community but it is one that the Access Group is willing to take on, because the sad fact is that nobody else is.

It took three and a half years to get the toilet doors reopened and from then the Group has built a sustainable model that works. Financing comes via a precept of £2 per household, £900 in community group donations, £500 annually from the local authority and some donations from users. The Welsh Government’s Public Facilities Grant scheme provided £400 in 2012 and 2013, but this initiative has now been scrapped.

There are 26 volunteers responsible for opening, cleaning and closing the toilets 365 days a year. Weekly monitoring of energy and water consumption has helped to identify operational efficiencies.

LlandrilloOldJul14   LlandrilloNewJul14.

The neglected public conveniences in Llandrillo, before and after renovation


David Robinson,I Eng MICE MCIHT, Llandrillo, Denbighshire

Clerks & Councils Direct July 2014


TWO public toilet blocks will be sold off or demolished if no-one comes forward to operate them, a parish council has been warned. Bradford Council told Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury Parish Council that funding for the conveniences was due to be withdrawn and asked if it would be interested in them taking over. However, the transfer would have no financial support, and chairman Cllr John Huxley said: “The fact that there’s no budget means we can’t afford to do this by ourselves. It is a great shame.”

Clerks & Councils Direct May 2014



WEST Oxfordshire District Council is reviewing its charging policy for public toilets after residents protested that it was “sexist”. The authority currently charges 10p to use toilet cubicles at 12 of its 13 public conveniences, but at the four where there are urinals men can use them at no cost.

Residents complained that this was “unfair discrimination” and gathered signatures from as far afield as Russia, Germany and Italy on a petition sent to the council, along with “pee for free” protest letters. They claimed that the council should “notice their obligation to treat men and women with equality”.

Environment cabinet member Cllr David Harvey said that the discrepancy dated from the 1936 Public Health Act, which allowed local authorities to charge for cubicles but not urinals. However, councils have been able to charge for urinals since an amendment in the 2008 Sex Discrimination Act came into force.

Councillors are now considering replacing all the urinals with cubicles, and increasing the charge to 20p to tackle a shortfall in running costs.

Clerks & Councils Direct May 2014

ONE in seven public toilets has closed in the last three years as councils are forced to cut costs. At the same time, an increasing number of users rely on public conveniences, such as the elderly and families.
Leading UK public toilet provider Danfo was recently able to prevent toilet closures by Blackpool Council despite austerity measures being put in place. This was achieved by taking an effective approach to team structuring. When Danfo started its partnership with the town council in 2002, Blackpool had some of the worst public toilets in Britain, but it has since taken it to the top of the league, as judged by the Loo of the Year Awards 2013.
Danfo works with local authorities of all sizes, and has recently improved facilities for Knutsford Town Council, Portishead Town Council and New Forest District Council. The company puts its excellent results down to having effective systems as it builds, cleans and services its own facilities.
Danfo is an internationally recognised specialist, focusing solely on the cleaning, maintenance and construction of public conveniences since 1969. It was named “National Winner England – External Contractor of the Year” in both the 2012 and 2013 Loo of the Year Awards.
For a free site survey, contact the company on 020 8380 7370 or via its website at

Clerks & Councils Direct March 2014

ASHOVER Parish Council has renovated an old lavatory block after leasing the facility from North East Derbyshire District Council when it was threatened with closure due to economy measures. It is believed to be one of the few parish councils to accept responsibility for upgrading and maintaining its public conveniences.
The makeover cost almost £27,000 and was made possible by a donation of more than £22,000 by Viridor Credits Environmental Company through the Landfill Communities Fund, with the parish council contributing £5,000 and Ashover Primary Care Trust £2,253.
It has seen a complete refit, including the installation of frost-proof sanitary ware, slip-proof tiled floors, tiled walls and improved baby-changing facilities. In addition, a redundant telephone kiosk at the front of the building has been turned into an information point featuring parish news, maps and details of local walks.
The block was officially opened by parish council chairman Ed Willmot cutting a length of toilet roll.

Clerks & Councils Direct March 2014


BUSY public toilets in LLANIDLOES look set to close after the town council decided it could not afford to take them on. Powys County Council needs to save £40 million over three years and is getting rid of public toilets and other nonstatutory expenses, and facilities will stay open only if town councils or other community groups can take responsibility for them.

It would cost £84,000 to upgrade the toilets in Llanidloes’ main Gro Car Park and tens of thousands per year to run them, and at a November meeting councillors voted unanimously against taking them on.

The mayor, Cllr Phyl Davies, said: “We’ve done the estimates on keeping them and the town hall ones open and we’re talking of putting tens of thousands on the precept. [The town hall ones] are in pretty good condition. We can’t not keep one open and it would be appalling if they both shut.”

 Clerks & Councils Direct January 2014


BRIGHTON and Hove City Council won the overall UK Loo of the Year Award for 2013. Of 24 toilets inspected in Brighton, 19 were nominated for Platinum awards and 16 for Gold. The council was praised by the judges for the high standard of cleaning and the provision of a range of toilets.

Cllr Pete West, chair of the council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “We are absolutely delighted with these awards. Standards have been raised while budgets have been squeezed, so to improve and be judged the best in the UK is a remarkable achievement.”

Clerks & Councils Direct January 2014


PUBLIC toilets across Pembrokeshire could close if town and community councils do not take over their ownership and running costs. Pembrokeshire County Council is reviewing the number of toilets it operates, with 28 of its 93 facilities potentially facing closure.

The council has been looking at bringing in private companies to manage toilets and charging people to use them. A spokesman said: “The feedback from the public consultation undertaken is that the majority of people would prefer to pay for a facility rather than see it disappear completely. Charging at some toilets may contribute to the maintenance and running costs of others across the county.”  A report will be put before the council’s environment overview and scrutiny committee in September.

Meanwhile Cllr Keith Nicholas, mayor of Pembroke, and town clerk Karen Didcote met county council staff recently to discuss the potential closure of two public toilets in the town. If both were closed, there would be just one public facility left in Pembroke. At a council meeting, members voted to provide financial support to ensure that a disabled toilet was available.

Clerks & Councils Direct September 2013


PUBLIC conveniences in Ashover, near Chesterfield, are to be renovated and upgraded at a cost of almost £27,000. The refurbishment has been made possible by a donation of more than £22,000 by Viridor Credits under the Landfill Communities Fund, with the rest coming from Ashover Parish Council and Ashover Primary Care Trust.

The work is expected to take around eight weeks. The building will be completely refitted to provide modern facilities and a baby-changing area. A redundant telephone kiosk at the front of the building will be turned into an information point featuring village attractions and maps of local walks

The parish council leased the lavatory block from North East Derbyshire District Council when it was threatened with closure and, according to chairman Ed Willmot, is believed to be one of the few parish councils to accept responsibility for upgrading and maintaining its public conveniences.

Meanwhile Wythall Parish Council in Worcestershire has installed a new environmentally friendly toilet at its allotment site. The toilet was purchased with a grant from Awards for All and means that the council will no longer have to hire a Portaloo for the summer growing season. It also means that plot holders (including those who are disabled) can use the toilet all year round. The new facility was unveiled at an official opening ceremony attended by the chairman and vice chairman of the parish council and the chairman of the allotments association.

AshoverLoo WythallEcoLoo

Ashover Parish Council is refurbishing its public loos  

Wythall has installed an ecotoilet for allotment holders

                Clerks & Councils Direct July 2013


I AM interested that Paul Clayden refers twice in the May issue (Legal Matters and Letters) to “the need to provide toilets”. I am the clerk in a very small parish where my predecessor, on grounds of public access, ceased the practice of holding council meetings in private houses.

Instead we meet in a disused church that has no mains water at all (so no toilets for anyone) and where picking our way along uneven paths and up steps to the meeting room needs care on a dark night. There is no disabled access.

Nothing in Arnold-Baker or the NALC Code of Conduct seems to deter this. Meanwhile, the Churches Conservation Trust charges us £12.50 per meeting.

Would Paul like to comment?

Gill Rowley
Clerk and RFO, Brockley Parish Council, North Somerset

Paul Clayden writes: There is no legal requirement to provide toilet or other facilities at a meeting venue, nor to provide steps into the building where meetings are held. However, the council needs to be aware of health and safety and equality legislation. The Equality Act 2010 deals with discrimination against those with disabilities in relation to the provision of public services or facilities (including attendance at meetings open to the public).

Clerks & Councils Direct July 2013

 BILLERICAY Town Council has defended a contract under which it spends £19,646 a year on one public toilet, claiming it is value for money. It pays a company to provide the facility under a 15-year contract. It is estimated that on average only nine people a day use the toilet, meaning that it works out at £5.79 per use. Cllr John Buchanan, chairman of the town council, said: “There is no credible reason to remove the toilet. We negotiated very hard for the best deal possible.”

Clerks & Councils Direct July 2013


FROME Town Council has launched a Community Toilet Scheme in partnership with a number of town centre businesses, including arts venues, cafes, pubs and hotels. Members of the public can use toilets in these premises – along with those at the council offices – during normal opening hours, without charge and without any obligation to purchase goods or services.

Cllr Peter Macfadyen said: “For a number of years the council has been very concerned at the lack of public toilets in Frome. The District Council has been unable to either restore existing toilets themselves, or allow the town to do so. Because of this we looked for alternatives and have taken the best ideas from other towns where this has worked.”

Details of participating premises will appear on new town map pads available from the local Information Centre and on the new town app. Research has shown that providing toilets in town centres has an economic benefit.

The council is also looking for new uses for redundant toilet blocks and has launched a “Toilet Twinning” scheme, which will help two charities raise funds for toilets in countries where sanitation is lacking. The Community Scheme toilets could be twinned with facilities in Uganda, and £60 already received in public donations is enough to twin a toilet at the council offices. Another will be twinned with a scheme in Ghana.

Clerks & Councils Direct May 2013


I READ with interest the letter from Michael Johnson, clerk to Lakes Parish Council, entitled “Who should pay for public loos?” (Clerks & Councils Direct, November 2012). Our parish council leased the public toilets from the borough authority in 2002 so as to prevent it closing them. As a result, the parish council now has to pay rates to the borough authority, although it is nowhere near the £10,500 that Lakes Parish Council is paying.

When I recently challenged this, explaining that no money is charged for the toilet’s use and asking how therefore it can be classed as business rates, I was told that the rates were set by the valuation officer and to contact them. I did, but to no avail.
However, on the bright side I was told that, as this parish council was classed as a small business and as it had two properties on which it paid rates/council tax (toilets and community hall), it would be exempt from paying on the greater rateable value of the two properties, providing the rateable value was not over £5,000.

As a result, this parish council received a rebate from the borough authority backdated to 1 April 2010 (as this is as far back as it can legally go) and now only pays rates/ council tax on the public toilets and nothing on the community hall. Are other town/parish councils aware that they can claim small business rate (SBR) relief if they are in a similar position?
I totally support Michael in his quest to get this situation recognised by government and wish him well in his pursuit of this.

Ralph L. Morgan
Clerk, Lilleshall, Donnington and Muxton Parish Council, Shropshire
Clerks & Councils Direct January 2013


I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with Michael Johnson’s complaints about having to pay business rates on public toilets. When I became clerk, I knew that business rateable value is normally based on the rentable value of a property. Since I concluded that a toilet had no rentable value, I issued a formal appeal against the valuation. However, as Michael has found, I was advised that toilets are valued differently. This does seem an outrageous arrangement which may deter councils from providing much needed facilities.

The good news is that we have been able to get ourselves identified as a small business, which means that under the government’s current arrangements we get a 100 per cent rebate and pay no tax.

I would be happy to support Michael Johnson in lobbying to get a more sensible arrangement.

Pat Johnston
Clerk, Wark Parish Council, Northumberland
Clerks & Councils Direct January 2013


ONE of the major issues discussed recently by our parish council has been the imposition of business rates on public toilets. We have approached the government through our local MP and CALC, but without any indication so far that things will change. However, we do now have authorisation to approach our MP with a view to gaining his support, perhaps with a ten-minute Bill in the House of Commons and by facilitating us to lobby the relevant government minister and civil servants.

Our argument is that it falls to the lowest tier of local government to provide this service due to the large number of principal authorities opting out of funding public conveniences, and that this should be recognised by government, either by an exemption or by an equivalent grant to compensate.

The business rates on the public conveniences that our parish has taken over this year will be £10,500, which is a sixth of our present precept. We have spent £180,000 improving the toilets so cannot ask for a revaluation, as a black hole opens up with rateable value on toilets based on their rebuild costs, unlike all other business rates. This would undoubtedly mean an increase in the rates!

We cannot be alone in the world of parish and town councils in this regard and would welcome any other views from our colleagues across the country.

Michael Johnson
Clerk, Lakes Parish Council, Ambleside, Cumbria
Clerks & Councils Direct November 2012

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