Features: Residents prepare to fight Clifton public toilet closure
Local businesses have spoken out against the proposed closure of toilets near Clifton Suspension Bridge, which they fear will have a negative impact on tourism.
It follows news that 18 of Bristol’s 36 public toilets could closed as a result of Bristol City Council’s latest round of budget cuts.
Earlier this year, the council took the decision to slash the budget for public toilets by £40,000 in 2017/18, and by a further £400,000 from 2018/19. Under the current proposals, 16 toilets and two urinals will be closed. This includes the public toilets by the Clifton Suspension Bridge – but the prospective closure of these facilities has been criticised by the Clifton Village Business Improvement District (BID).
“The Clifton Suspension Bridge attracts visitors from all over the world who often arrive after a long journey and it is essential to have public services available,” says Andrew Morgan MBE, chair of the Clifton Village BID.
“In addition, the Downs are one of the most widely used open spaces in the city. It would be a disgrace not to have proper public toilets available. Clifton BID is definitely against the closure of this most important amenity.”
Sharon Baker, a member of Clifton in Bloom, added: “Not only do commuters stop at these loos, but dog walkers, cyclists and many many visitors to the Suspension Bridge use these conveniences. Furthermore, this is the only public loo in Clifton Village area and is so important for children at the play area and visitors to the Observatory too. ”
The cuts leave just £30,000 available for public toilets each year, which is the cost of keeping a single toilet open. As part of their 2017 Neighbourhood Consultation, the council are currently seeking public views on how this remaining money should be spent.
Three options have been put forward by the council. The first option, and the council’s preference, would see 18 public toilets closed, and a Business/Community Toilet Scheme introduced in the city. Businesses including shops and cafes would volunteer to make their toilets available for public use, with the £30,000 used to help participating businesses with the cost of keeping the toilets clean and in good condition.
The second option is to close 17 public toilets, and invest £30,000 in keeping one open. The third option is to close 18 public toilets and provide no alternative provision – saving the council £30,000.
A petition has been set up by Ciaran Ellis, calling for the Suspension Bridge toilets to be kept open. Ciaran says: “I was very concerned to see that the Suspension Bridge public toilet is going to be closed in the latest budget cuts. I love walking on the Downs and visit two or three times a week and always see people going in and out.
“The Suspension Bridge is a huge draw, not just for local people like me but for visitors from all over the city, the UK and from around the world. That we should be losing the most basic of amenities here seems beyond short-sighted and could seriously damage our reputation as a hospitable city. There simply isn’t anywhere else to go.”
Ian Johnson owns the Clifton Observatory, and is also worried about the toilets being closed. Ian says: “It’s a centrally placed feature to a number of key Bristol tourist attractions, and we’d certainly like to see it kept open for the benefit of all in the area.”
In a statement, councillor Asher Craig, deputy mayor for communities, said: “These are difficult times in local government and we need to think of new ways of working if we are going to be able to protect the services that people rely upon in the face of Central Government cuts.
“We are looking at a wide range of savings proposals in our current Your Neighbourhood consultation in order to do this. One of which involves changing the way we deliver the city’s public toilets. We are hoping that by working in partnership with local businesses, other public services and support organisations, we will be able to find alternative solutions whereby organisations open their facilities.”
You can comment on the proposals and see the full list of public toilets to be closed at: www.bristol.gov.uk/yourneighbourhood