Stevenage bucks national decline in public toilet numbers

The number of public toilets in Stevenage has increased by one since 2000. File photo. Picture: Arch

The number of public toilets in Stevenage has increased by one since 2000. File photo. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Across the UK, public toilets have been closing – but not in Stevenage.

The borough council has bucked the national trend and increased the number of loos available to the public over the last two decades. It has one more public toilet than it did in 2000, according to newly-released figures from the British Toilet Association.

The data, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, shows that Stevenage currently has nine council-operated loos – up from eight in 2000.

Across the UK, at least 1,541 of these conveniences were closed over the period – a drop of 39 per cent. The figure could be even bigger as many councils did not reply to the query.

Local authorities can come to an agreement with private businesses to open their amenities for the general public in exchange for a payment or a tax credit.

The British Toilet Association has started a campaign called Use Our Loos to encourage businesses to open their toilets to non-customers and make it visible by having a sticker on display.

The director of the organisation, Raymond Martin, said: “We know that councils are under pressure with their budgets and despite having no legal obligation to maintain these public facilities, they have continued to try to reverse the rate of decline.

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“They are constantly looking at alternative ideas, such as individual Community Toilet Schemes, to provide reasonable provision for their communities. Use our Loos is a community-oriented solution not about opening more toilets but making more toilets that already exist accessible to the public.”

In Stevenage there is one public convenience for every 9,749 residents, compared to one for 10,930 people in the UK.

A Local Government Association spokesman said: “Councils are doing everything they can to keep public toilets open and ensure there is provision for people with particular needs.

“With substantial reductions to their budgets, councils have had to make tough choices about public facilities but are finding innovative ways of tackling this issue.”

Charities fighting for elderly people’s rights have denounced the impact of the lack of free toilets.

Age UK’s Caroline Abrahams said: “A lack of public toilets affects everyone but for many older people knowing there’s a decent public convenience freely available for all enables them to get out and about with confidence, without fear of being caught short or drawing attention to themselves.

“We know that some older people with health conditions choose to stay indoors rather than taking a chance on being able to find a toilet if they need one, so public toilets really do make a big difference to their quality of life.”