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Petition over inconvenient lack of public toilets

Petition: Save Andover's public toilets

Local businesses who are part of the ‘community toilet scheme’ are supporting a ‘Save Andover’s Public Toilets’ petition.

Venue owners in the town are claiming that since the closure of two public toilets, they are experiencing increased misuse of their facilities.

Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) closed the town centre conveniences in July last year; joining the already closed Borden Gate facilities near Sainsbury’s.

An online campaign took to the streets this weekend to collect signatures to prevent the demolition of the toilets at George Yard car park.  Organisers aim to collect 1,500 signatures.

The petition was started by husband and wife team Joanne and David Coole who wanted to follow-up the outrage expressed by veteran campaigner Councillor Iris Andersen.  

Mrs Coole exclusively told Love Andover, I don’t believe that the council have followed the correct procedure.  

We went to a TVBC planning meeting where they voted to close the toilets. At the meeting they tried to stop David from talking, claiming that this should have been discussed at a previous council meeting – but on investigation, we can’t find any record of there being such a meeting”.

Mrs Coole is keen to point out, “This campaign is really questioning whether the authority followed the correct processes”.  She continues:

Government guidelines recommend ‘extensive public consultation’ when considering the removal of public toilets.  

Test Valley Borough Council created a Community Toilet Scheme which encourages venues like Caffe Nero, the Redbridge Pub and Costa Coffee to open their conveniences to non-paying customers.  

It is understood that TVBC pay participating businesses £1,500 per year to be members of the scheme.

We’ve spoken to many cafes who are not in the scheme and some are complaining about recent increased misuse of their toilets by members of the public who are not purchasing anything from them”, says Mrs Coole.

The Redbridge complained to us about drug abuse, vandalism and graffiti since they joined the scheme.”

Love Andover spoke with management at Bridge Street pub but they were unable to confirm whether they would remain as part of the community toilet scheme.

Toilet campaign: Blue Onion
Toilet campaign: Blue Onion

A few of the businesses supporting the petition include:

  • Wimpy
  • Costa
  • Blue Onion
  • Jenny’s Cafe
  • Frango Grill
  • Coffee #1
  • WH Smith
  • Butters
  • Clintons
  • Redbridge

Many were concerned about the “coach loads of people” who arrive throughout the year, particularly in the summer, and where they will go to take a comfort break.

The council have previously said that the decision to close the toilets was a ‘result of persistent problems with drug users’ and ‘in the interest of public safety’.  Many online commentators reject this argument, claiming that the council should not be dictated to by drug users, but concentrate on solving the drug problem instead of moving the issue to cafes and pubs.

On the Facebook group Spotted in Andover, resident Lionel Whyton says, “If Andover has such a huge drugs problem, why not address that first instead of closing the public toilets. I am disgusted by the council’s action.

Andover Community Toilet Scheme
Borden Gate: Andover Toilet Scheme

Citing the existing scheme’s difficulty for wheelchair users and parents with prams, Mrs Coole adds, “I went to Costa the other day and it was not only really busy, but also the walkway to the toilets between chairs and shop fittings was so narrow it would make it really difficult for wheelchair users or with those with prams to get through without making a fuss.

Disabled people, or anyone for that matter, really don’t want to cause a fuss when needing to spend a penny.

“Using a pub causes problems too.  Going through a pub while lugging pram upstairs is also an unacceptable option.”  

Save Andover Public Toilets - Costa
Costa: Restricted space for wheelchair users

Mrs Coole has used the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to request information from Test Valley Borough Council about the amount of drug abuse taking place in the George Yard block.  An official response received today did not answer the question, simply stating: “Statistics were not used to determine that drug abuse was taking place”.

Save Andover Public Toilets
Public Toilets campaign

TVBC has previously told Love Andover, The demolition of the building will improve the overall look of the area and create additional car parking.”

Mrs Coole adds, “We need to get 1,500 signatures on the petition by mid-April and my husband and I plan to come out on Saturdays to collect more signatures.  So far there hasn’t been one person who has refused to sign the petition.”

David Coole is due to question councillors at a Council Cabinet Meeting in Romsey on 14th February, the same meeting where it is understood councillors are being whipped into line to authorise the demolition of the George Yard toilet block.

1,500 signatures are required to ensure the matter is debated at a Full Council meeting in April. Interested parties are being encouraged to sign the petition online here:

http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/…/SAVE-A-DOVER-PUBLIC-TOILE…

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About the author

David Harber

David Harber

David Harber is the founder and Managing Director of Love Andover.

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  • Response from Test Valley Borough Council:

    – TVBC invites venue owners with concerns about the toilets to contact them directly.
    – TVBC believe Mrs Coole has misunderstood council process and offers the following response:

    The report to this committee was solely about the relevant matters to be considered in determining a planning application to demolish the former public toilets. The committee was not considering the case for the closure of the toilets themselves.

    All public participation at the planning meeting, including contributions from Mr Coole, were administered in the usual way in accordance with the relevant rules.

    There will be a report going to Cabinet on 14 February recommending the demolition of the former George Yard toilets, which have been closed since July 2017. This report sets out the history of the current situation and will be available on TVBC’s website on Monday, 5 February. In particular, the report sets out the steps taken by the Council to try to address the persistent and very serious drug issues that put public safety at risk and caused injury to a member of staff. These include:

    • The Council sought to address these problems in a number of ways, seeking advice from both a specialist drug advisory organisation and from the police.
    • The Council was advised to install specialist lighting into the toilets to deter drug related activity as it makes it more difficult to see veins. This did not eradicate the problem.
    • The Council were advised to close the toilets for several weeks to disrupt the patterns of unwanted behaviour. This advice was given in the expectation that this may have resulted in individuals relocating their activities and establishing new patterns of behaviour so that when the toilets were reopened the problem did not return. This did not prove to be the case and the anti social behaviour problems returned.
    • The Council employed the services of a full time security guard at considerable expense to be present all the time the George Yard toilets were open (whilst the Borden Gates toilets remain closed) to act as a deterrent. This was an interim measure to enable the pilot of the Community Toilet Scheme to run its course so that it could be assessed.
    • The pilot scheme has run successfully with facilities open for longer hours than the previous toilet facilities at George Yard and Borden Gates

    – TVBC points out that there are additional toilets inside the Chantry Centre and wishes to add:

    “Since the George Yard and Borden Gates toilets closed no complaints relating to a shortage of toilet facilities have been received under the Council’s complaints procedure.”

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