April 6, 2016
Few public facilities become quite as important as the public loo when the need to find one strikes. Understandably communities are loathe to lose them – but that is exactly what is happening all over the country with some being sold to developers and many more closed down to save a bit of money. So it comes as no surprise that these important little buildings are fast becoming the most frequently requested asset for transfer into community ownership. That said, developing a sustainable business plan for a public toilet is a tall order.
Dilapidated public toilets saved from closure and turned into an art gallery have proved an overwhelming success in an Angus village.
The Wee Gallery in East Haven – affectionately known as the Loo-uvre – has opened again for spring after proving to be a great example of a community taking ownership of a public space.
Originally built in the early 1970s by Angus County Council, the toilets are now run by local charity East Haven Together, which is headed by Wendy Murray.
The idea of a community partnership arose when the local authority had to consider the long-term viability of its network of public toilets across Angus.
The toilets were transformed into an art gallery by locals after volunteers modernised and decorated the building.
Volunteers take responsibility for a week at a time, opening and closing the toilets, maintaining stocks of supplies and cleaning the facilities daily.
They also provide soap, hand towels and hand cream.
Wendy said the response from the public since opening last year has been overwhelming and far exceeds any expectations they had at the outset.
She said people constantly tell them how wonderful it is to find a clean toilet and how much they feel it reflects well on the whole community.
Wendy said she feels quite strongly about public toilet closures and has called for more to be done by the Scottish Government.
She said: “I think it is about health and well-being and also about Scotland’s tourism strategy.”