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February 17, 2010

The inconvenient truth about public conveniences

Public toilets may not be at top of everyone’s list of essential Council services,  but only a few years ago these convenient public facilities would have been a feature on every high street in the country.  No more.  As councils cast around for ways to reduce their spending, they represent an easy target for cuts.  But public toilets may have more to offer than meet the eye and some communities are beginning to recognise their hidden value

Proposals by a community group to take on the management and running of public toilets in two north-east towns are likely to be in the spotlight later this month.

The community trust at Banff and Macduff submitted a business case about the conveniences to Aberdeenshire Council towards the end of last year. A report is expected to be completed by council officers for consideration by Banff and Buchan councillors on February 16.

Trust operations and development manager Fiona Poustie said: “After we submitted the business case, we thought the council might come back with follow-up questions but we have heard nothing.

“I hope the issue does come up this month because we put a lot of work into the case.”

The trust believes that re-opening conveniences which were closed years ago and running them with the existing ones will have tourism benefits.

The spur for the move was consideration by councillors last year of the demolition of the former Castle Street toilet block at Banff.

It closed 10 years ago, with the Market Arch conveniences at Banff, as part of a controversial cost-cutting exercise by the local authority.

The council eventually put demolition proposals on hold to see if other options emerged from the community.

Before the trust signalled an interest, one Banff resident offered to buy the Castle Street block to prevent it being knocked down.

The trust business plan focuses on the Castle Street and Market Arch toilets with facilities at St Mary’s car park, Banff, Banff Marina and Macduff Harbour.

It examines the management of opening hours and issues such as cleaning and maintenance.

The former public toilets at Banff Links are not included in the trust business case.

They also closed 10 years ago and there is no longer a water supply to the block.

The operators of a surf club at the Links have made repeated requests to the local authority to reopen the conveniences.

Banff and Buchan councillors were told at a recent meeting that a report on the conveniences is due this month