LYME Regis Town Council is expected to spend upwards of £45,000 on refurbishment of public toilets on Marine Parade, with members being told they have “got to get it right”.
In June councillors considered spending between £14,830 and £18,500 on remedial repairs at the seafront toilets – which were closed for several weeks last year due to problems – but they decided it would be more cost effective to pay for a comprehensive refurbishment.
Three companies were approached to provide ideas and costs for refurbishing the Marine Parade toilets and/or installing new toilets in the nearby Jubilee Pavilion, with prices ranging from £44,000 to £86,000.
The council had budgeted £45,000 for the project in the current 2017/18 financial year and a further £45,000 in 2019/20.
The quotes were received after the British Toilet Association inspected all of Lyme’s public toilets and released a report, which summarised: “Whilst the majority of toilets visited were in reasonable working order, the overall perception felt was that these toilets were from an older era and were crying out for some form of modernisation; and for someone to address a number of inherent problems.”
Some of these inherent problems included a lack of signage directing the public to toilets; anti-social behaviour in toilets, including alcohol and substance abuse, homelessness and vandalism; cleaning schedules; and the accessibility of toilets.
The report continued: “Many of these [facilities] are showing extreme signs of age, wear and a clear lack of sufficient maintenance from the current service provider.
“The installation of stainless steel was encouraged during the 90s and the 00s but in many councils these types of units have been deemed, not just unattractive, but actually encouraging to malevolent attack and a feeling of poor quality. There are alternative materials that were developed for use in prisons and hospitals that look more like stoneware – but posses the strength of steel and therefore stand up to the harshness of attacks.
“With some consideration and a reasonable budget, some substantial changes could be made to increase the realm of provision and also to update and beautify the current infrastructure so that Lyme Regis appears to care about its visitors, tourists and residents and puts on a welcoming atmosphere for everyone needing relief & entering the toilets.”
Referring specifically to the Marine Parade toilets, the report said the facilities were “pushed to almost breaking point” during busy periods, adding: “These facilities are not in keeping with the overall perceptive beauty of the town and surrounding areas.”
However, it was toilets at the Candles on the Cobb pavilion in Anning Road playing field that were described as the “greatest cause for concern” as they had suffered an increasing level of anti-social behaviour, including malicious damage and evidence of arson.
Councillors considered the report at a meeting just before Christmas.
Councillor Derek Hallett expressed concern about the cost of maintaining public toilets, if the town council were to take on responsibility for more facilities from West Dorset District Council in the future.
“Some members here are keen on taking on another eight or nine toilet blocks and that means, if we’re going to do them up proper, we’d have to spend another three quarters of a million, on top of this,” he commented.
Councillor Steve Miller said the report offered a “very clear way forward” and proposed approving the funding for the refurbishment of the toilets in the budget for the coming financial year.
He added that the council should also consider improvements to the Candles on the Cobb pavilion, where toilets were in a “very, very poor condition”.
Town clerk John Wright commented: “We have really got to know what we want to produce and then seek competitive tenders against that sum of money, which may exceed what we have here.”
He said that work could start at the Marine Parade toilets in April, with temporary toilet provision provided, so the improved facilities could be open in time for summer.
There’s been so much criticism of the public toilets we have got to get it right,” he added.
Councillor Brian Larcombe added: “It’s indisputable that we do have to have these toilets fixed, we do need to spend this sort of money and perhaps a bit more.”
However, Councillor Stan Williams said that refurbishing the toilets would not last if they facilities were not looked after properly.
“You’re a bit deluded in believing that if you spend a lot of money on toilets they’re going to be perfect. Within three hours on a busy afternoon, if you don’t have staff to keep them clean… they’re not self cleaning toilets.
“The devil is in the detail, easy to clean is one of the secrets. But the only thing that’s really going to keep them in good condition is having the right staff.”
Members approved funding for the refurbishment of the toilets in the budget.