There was praise at a meeting on Monday for community groups, town and parish councils that have taken over responsibility for operating public toilets in the Derbyshire Dales.
And although 10 local loos run by the District Council are set to close on 14 May, talks will continue about the possibility of some of them reopening under more local control.
A special meeting of the District Council, which can be viewed again on YouTube, heard that local authorities such as Wirksworth Town Council had acted promptly to take over their loos by increasing their share of Council Tax.
Unlike the District Council, town and parish councils are not restricted by the amount they can increase Council Tax by.
- View the report to the meeting [PDF 358KB]
Cromford Community Association has agreed heads of terms to take over the facility in Cromford and a Community Asset Transfer has also been agreed for the facilities at Ashford in the Water, with a one-year lease proposed to transfer the facilities at Eyam to the parish council in return for a 50% contribution towards running costs, subject to review in 2019.
Negotiations are also underway about the possible transfer to parish councils of the public toilets in Bradwell and Bonsall.
Monday’s meeting confirmed the upcoming closure of loos at Ashbourne's Recreation Ground, Bakewell's Riverside, Birchover, Darley Dale, Artist's Corner Matlock Dale, Matlock Bath Pavilion, Matlock Hall Leys Park Play Area, Monsal Head, Monyash and Thorpe.
However, private interest has been shown in the future potential of the sites recommended for closure at Birchover, Monsal Head and Thorpe. At Monsal Head there is a prospect of securing a public convenience on site, run by a private company.
In the case of the dilapidated facilities at the Matlock Hall Leys Park play area, a temporary portaloo will be installed for the duration of the 2018 tourist season following demolition of the old buildings. Discussions will continue with interested parties, including the Town Council, about the future use of the play area site, though it was reported that Matlock Town Council had responded negatively when approached by the District Council in June last year about taking over the site.
Portaloos will also be installed at the Matlock Bath Pavilion site for the District Council’s annual Matlock Bath Illuminations, while outside groups organising events in that area of the village will be urged to factor in the need for portaloo provision.
At Ashbourne Recreation Ground a joint partnership arrangement with the District Council and community groups will shortly see the transfer of land owned by the District Council for the erection of a new Pavilion, and agreement has been reached to provide a public toilet as part of that project.
The meeting, attended by eight members of the public, heard that so far as the District Council is concerned, continuing to operate 26 loos across the Dales at a cost of £467,000 is “unsustainable” and could have a serious impact on frontline and statutory services.
The District Council isn’t obliged to provide public toilets.
Successive central government grant cuts, including a further £637,000 reduction in the current year, have forced the council to review all the services it provides.
Rationalising toilets will mean that better, higher quality facilities will be provided in areas of most need.
Already agreed is that a 20p charge be introduced for the use of high quality loos in six busy locations - Matlock's Hall Leys Park, Bakewell's Granby Road and the Recreation Ground, Ashbourne's Shawcroft, Matlock Bath Memorial Gardens and Matlock Bus Station.
The commercial potential of the sites at Bakewell Recreation Ground and Matlock Bus Station will be referred to the District Council’s new Commercial Board for assessment, together with two sites earmarked for closure - Artist’s Corner in Matlock Dale and the play area toilets site in Matlock’s Hall Leys Park.
To help plug the gap of any permanent closures, a Community Toilet Scheme is being adopted by the District Council, where local businesses will be asked to allow members of the public to use their own loos for free in exchange for a small revenue grant. The council is also be exploring new sponsorship and advertising options at retained public conveniences.
Among other recommendations already approved is that a formal consultation is undertaken to consider the amendment of the Off Street Parking Order to introduce a 20p additional levy for car parking and £1 for coach parking to help towards the cost of retaining public loos located in rural car parks at Baslow, Over Haddon and Hartington - and that all cash received through the levy be directed to repairs and improvements at these specific locations.