VISITORS to Fenland could find themselves caught short if plans to close over half the district’s public toilets get the go-ahead.
The budget for conveniences is set to be cut by Fenland Council in a bid to balance the books but some councillors fear it could cause difficulties for people coming into the area - especially as tourism is on the up.
The issue of public toilets was discussed at the recent Wisbech Town Council where members were concerned about the town losing three or its four Fenland-financed conveniences.
Cllr Roger Green believes the town should keep at least two of its council-funded loos or face having people ducking behind bushes to spend a penny.
“I accept that we don’t need to keep all four of the public toilets, but I firmly believe we need at least two, otherwise it could cause real difficulties for visitors to the town.
“If we are forced to keep just one it will be difficult to decide which it should be. If the toilets in the park close it will cause problems for people using it as they will have to cross Churchill Road to get to the toilets at St Peter’s car park - if we close the car park toilets shoppers will have to cross to the park.
“It could take as long as 10 minutes for people to get to the toilet - longer for the less mobile - and that is not convenient especially for people who are using the tennis courts or bowling green,” said Cllr Green.
He believes the district council should continue to fund two sets of toilets, which would mean Wisbech would lose the toilets at the Borough Cemetery and on Exchange Square but keep the better-used Park and St Peter’s conveniences.
“I think there should be a fairer approach to the way Fenland looks at closing toilets in the four towns. Obviously Wisbech is much bigger than Chatteris or Whittlesey, who have only two sets of toilets at the moment. That means closure of one will be the equivalent of losing 50 per cent of their public loos.
“If the council were to stick with closing 50 per cent it would mean Wisbech could keep two of its public toilets and that would be a fairer approach,” said Cllr Green.
March currently only has two sets of toilets in Broad Street and City Road.
Both are well-used with the City Road loos serving both visitors to the town and people using West End Park.
Broad Street toilets are used by shoppers and are a vital service during events such as the Summer Festival and also the St George’s Day fair.
March Cllr Jan French believed the idea could be for town councils to take over running some of the toilets. She felt March needed to keep both sets of toilets, but said the issue had yet to be discussed by the town council.
There has also been some suggestion that local shops and businesses would be asked to allow members of the public access to their loos.
But Cllr French said: “I don’t think that is always practical, I don’t think it is fair to expect shop owners to allow shoppers to use their facilities.”
She said the town council may be able to raise money to fund one set of toilets, but that would be something that needed to be discussed once Fenland Council had contacted the Town Council about its proposals for public conveniences.
Chatteris also has two sets of loos, one in Station Street near the Working Men’s Club and the other at Furrowfields near the library.
Town Cllr Florence Newell firmly believes that both sets are essential but said the Station Street toilets are the most used.
Again the issue has not been discussed by the town council. But Cllr Newell said there was a possibility the town council could take over the running of one of the loos - although if there was a strength of feeling against Fenland’s plans members may decide to write to oppose closing either of the toilets.
But Mrs Newell said it would be Council Tax payers, who would eventually have to pay for the toilets, whether it was through Fenland Council or through the town council precept.
What do you think? Should Fenland Council close the majority of the area’s public toilets? Should town councils take over the cost of running them?
Write to Fenland Citizen, 11 Union Street, Wisbech or Market Place, March or email: email@example.com.