Thousands sign petition against plans to close Porthcawl’s public toilets

More than 3,000 people have signed a petition against plans to close public toilets in Porthcawl town centre.

The John Street toilets which are in a Grade 2 listed building are set to close in January under cost cutting plans by Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC).

In June, the council announced the facilities in Porthcawl, along with Maesteg and Bridgend, may close because of the “financial situation”.

The local authority says the only way to save the toilets is if Porthcawl Town Council takes charge of them under the Community Asset Transfer scheme.

But at a Porthcawl Town Council meeting on Thursday September 13, town councillors expressed their “anger and disappointment” over the closure.

They say BCBC has failed to consider a range of options for the “iconic” public toilets in a seaside town which has a large resident and tourist population made up of both young families and elderly residents.

Speaking after the meeting town councillor and BCBC councillor Mike Clarke said: “It is a big concern because the John Street toilets are really important for footfall in the town centre.

“It’s a listed building and hasn’t been maintained and that’s being transferred to us as a legacy debt to put it right.

“To close it in January isn’t reasonable – even if we decide to take it over, Porthcawl has a limited precept.

“We haven’t got unallocated funds to plug the gap between January and the start of the new year in April.

“All we are asking for is to give us notice because we can’t respond immediately – we need time to think about it and see if anything can be done differently.

Thousands of people have signed the petition
(Image: change.org)

“We need a further year so we are able to find a cost effective way for residents.”

He added: “We are not being unreasonable.

“We agreed some time ago to take on the Griffin Park toilets and we were able to put money into the precept for it.

“It’s taken about 18 months so far as we have been waiting for various reports.

“The building is in such a poor state, we are going to have to pull it down and build a new one.

“We are working with BCBC which has said it will assist us with the rebuild.”

Councillor Clarke said a letter informing the town council of the closure plans for John Street car park only reached the council in August meaning the earliest opportunity to discuss the issue was at full council on Thursday.

A petition has attracted more than 3,000 signatures in two days.

Residents warn that the footfall in the town is already dwindling and the closure of the public toilets will be “another nail in the coffin” from the local authority on the town.

They say closing the only public toilets in the town centre is “complete madness”.

Councillor Richard Young, cabinet member for communities, said: “Due to the financial situation we simply cannot continue to run public toilets in the way that we do now.

“As a result of austerity, we have had to save £30m in the last three years, but over the next three years we will need to save £30m more to balance the books while continuing to protect services aimed at our most vulnerable residents.

“When considering budget savings, no decision is easy. This isn’t something that we would choose to do if we were not forced to, and we are making every effort to try to find alternative ways of providing public toilets so that as many as possible can remain open.

“We welcome all town and community councils, local groups, private businesses and more to work alongside us in a constructive way and I am disappointed that Porthcawl Town Council have decided to politicise this issue through the media rather than speaking to us directly on this occasion.

“During the last year, we have had many meetings and conversations with Porthcawl Town Council regarding toilets in Porthcawl, and they were also included in a full public consultation that we held to gather views on which of our public toilets are most needed.

“We will continue to discuss the matter with Porthcawl Town Council to find a suitable solution.”

Councillor Clarke said a meeting with BCBC had been organised for September 26 to discuss the situation.

The town council recently worked closely with Awen Trust to re-open the public toilets beneath the Grand Pavilion on Porthcawl seafront.

The toilets at Rest Bay are being redeveloped as part of the new watersports centre and it is expected people will have to pay to use them.

Future maintenance and operation of the toilets are part of the lease for the centre.

In June BCBC announced plans to cut the number of public toilets across the county, increase charges for others and pay businesses for people to use their toilets.

The council is trying to cut £100,000 from its budget this year by shifting responsibility for the toilets to town and community councils.

The plans involve starting to charge up to 50p for some toilets.

In addition to the public toilets in Porthcawl, there are two sets of public toilets in Bridgend and one in Maesteg.

They are staffed by four toilet attendants who work on a rota system to open, close, and clean the toilets.

A BCBC spokesman said while there were ongoing discussions over transferring responsibility for the toilets it would be meeting shortly with all staff affected by the proposals and trade unions as part of making “necessary preparations” should the closure go ahead.

BCBC is blaming year-on-year reductions in Welsh Government funding.

Article source: https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/thousands-sign-petition-against-plans-15176478