WEYMOUTH’S drug and alcohol abusers have turned their attention to public toilets for people with disabilities near the main beach after the borough council closed and sold the loos on the corner of Bond Street.
Some have managed to get hold of Radar keys, reserved for people with disabilities, to use the lockable toilet on the seafront behind what used to be the tourism office.
Those living and working nearby, and cleaning staff, have spoken of finding used needles, cans and bottles.
“I have seen seven or eight down and outs coming out of the toilets at the same time…it doesn’t take much imagination to guess what might have been going on,” said Colin Hobbs.
“It wasn’t long ago there was blood up the walls.”
While View from Weymouth was talking to residents outside the toilet a young man and his bike came out from the unlocked disabled toilet. Two others, also on bikes, then approached, but when one woman, who herself had once been homeless, pulled the bin out of the toilet onto the street, they quickly left.
“The first one will have put drugs in the bins for the others to collect – they do it all the time,” said the woman, who had to be persuaded by others, not to tip the contents of the bin out.
Cleaning staff who were working nearby confirmed that they frequently had to clean up needles, bottles and cans from the toilets. They spoke of being frightened of opening the door for fear of what they might find inside. There are two toilets in the block – one which is a Radar key entry only and is available 24/7 and the another, beside it, which is for disabled people and baby change, open until 5pm.
Jean Spain, who frequently checks the state of the toilets on behalf of disabled people, said the loos have been getting in a worse state because of those mis-using them.
“It is the only toilet accessible to disabled people, it’s the right spot where there are ramps and disabled access, but we need to have them protected for what they are intended for.”
She has suggested that one solution might be to give a key for the toilets to a nearby business so that the toilets could be kept locked until they are needed – and would then be available not only to disabled people, but families with young children.
But Mr Hobbs disagreed saying: “It shouldn’t be up to retailers’ goodwill if you need to use a toilet …this is a problem for the council and they should sort it out.”
He and his wife are often at a nearby café and frequently see what goes on at the toilets.
“We often go and check. The mis-use of the toilets is such a problem that we’ve got the cleaners’ number on speed dial and they’re usually here very quickly to sort out the problems.”
But Mrs Spain says that while Mr Hobbs might have the cleaning company’s direct number, the only telephone number on the toilet door is that of the borough council.
“Earlier this year both toilets were out of action. I emailed the council and it took a week or more before they got back to me.”
She says she fears that a lack of decent public toilets will backfire on the borough council.
“I suspect most people won’t bother reporting it when they find the toilets disgusting but simply walk away…people won’t come back to Weymouth unless the councils sorts the loos out,” and that, she says, ought to include providing more toilets along the seafront suitable for people with disabilities and children.
“It’s all very well to put new toilets at the pavilion, but many disabled people and young children, can’t get that far.”
But she fears that by complaining about the state of the toilets and their mis-use the borough council might get the wrong impression: “We do not want the council to get the impression that, if they are not in tip top condition, they are not wanted. This is far from the truth and in fact could be improved upon very easily by making both toilets ‘Radar entry’ and to perhaps ask one of the beach cafes or the holiday home sales office if they would agree to be a custodian of the Radar key, with a returnable deposit, for young mums so that they can continue to use them and change their children if required.”
Weymouth & Portland Borough Council were contacted for comment, but had not responded by the time of going to press.