Loos change

PUBLISHED: 11:11 25 May 2006 | UPDATED: 10:11 06 May 2010

SPENDING a penny could cost over £1 million. That is if a restructuring scheme for North Herts, which will see the closure of public toilets in Hitchin, Letchworth GC and Baldock, gets the go-ahead. But opposition to North Herts District Council s proposa

SPENDING a penny could cost over £1 million.

That is if a restructuring scheme for North Herts, which will see the closure of public toilets in Hitchin, Letchworth GC and Baldock, gets the go-ahead.

But opposition to North Herts District Council's proposals is mounting as they are branded unrealistic and lacking common sense.

In a report presented to councillors on Tuesday night, three options were outlined aimed at improving facilities in the towns.

The trio of schemes have been budgeted to cost between £608,505 and over £1m and all include toilet closures, refurbishments of existing facilities and the installation of new buildings.

In Hitchin, consultants have recommended that the public conveniences in The Arcade and on Portmill Lane are closed, blaming their poor location and inadequate disabled access.

In their place, two new toilet units would be built on the Market Place and at Mosses Corner, which they hope will be more central and visible to the public.

In Letchworth GC, the public loos at The Arena would be shut and alterations would be made to the existing building in Howard Park.

In Baldock, they aim to close the facilities at the Town Hall and replace these with a new building on the High Street.

One of the report's main aims is to provide higher quality public toilets in better, more obvious locations that are busy thoroughfares.

But some residents in Hitchin fear the proposals will be detrimental to the nature of the town centre and provide few benefits to the public.

Ellie Clarke, secretary of Hitchin Forum, has issues with both the appearance and the location of the planned public toilets.

She said: "I am left speechless by the report. It is the principles that are so flawed.

"I do not believe the two suggestions for new loos in Hitchin would ever meet conservation area requirements.

"I'm sure English Nature would veto both suggestions.

"The toilets on Hitchin's Market Place would make us the laughing stock of the nation, and rightly so.

"Yes, our public conveniences need a huge upgrade. They're in an appalling state and it's been going on since 1998, but I think everyone's horrified by these proposals and can't believe they're for real."

Mrs Clarke is worried that the positioning of new public loos, right in the heart of historic Hitchin on the Market Place, would ruin the town centre's character.

"Neither will they meet public sensitivities.

"Few people will want to go into a loo on a main thoroughfare in full view of shoppers and shops.

"We need high quality loos which are discrete and well signposted, not 'in your face'." said Mrs Clarke.

She is also enraged by the council's poor communication with local people.

She said: "The complete lack of public consultation is unbelievable.

"If they drew on the knowledge of local people we wouldn't always be at loggerheads with them.

"The consultants employed by NHDC couldn't even spell Hitchin right!

"They need to totally start again."

The scrutiny committee on Tuesday recommended that the issue is deferred by Cabinet on June 6 for comment from the area committees.

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