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Petition to protect public loos
Campaign launched to get the provision of public toilets enshrined in law
By Nicky Broyd
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed
10th November 2011 - Currently it's not a legal requirement for councils to provide public toilets and, as austerity measures kick in, more and more local authorities see closing WCs as a way to save money.
However, the campaign group "We need the Loo" believes this could prove counterproductive. It's launched an online petition to ask the Government to make it a legal requirement for local authorities to provide and maintain, suitable public toilets.
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Britain's public conveniences were once the envy of the world but now the British Toilet Association estimates that more than 40% of our public toilets have shut their doors in the last ten years. Its Director, Mike Bone, told us the number is accelerating and he says within this year it's expected another 1,000 will close - but not without a fight.
"Local people are campaigning and resisting change, particularly at the moment down in Cornwall where they are trying to reduce the number of toilets by 50% in an area that relies on tourism. It's obvious this is going to have a massive impact on tourism in Cornwall if the council go ahead and close all those toilets."
He says not all councils are taking the soft option: "To be fair there are some local authorities who despite the cuts ...... have pledged to keep their toilets open and in fact they're maintaining them to high standards so it can be done. It's just a question of priorities, unfortunately.
"If you've got to make cuts surely you think about meeting basic human needs first."
Everyone needs a public toilet at sometime and although many existing facilities aren't perfect the "We need the Loo" campaign accepts that a limited old toilet is preferable to no toilet at all. It says there are an increasing number of people whose lives are adversely affected by the state of Britain’s public loos: people with mental or physical disabilities, the infirm or elderly, people with babies or young childrenand people of all ages who are coping with a range of medical conditions including:incontinence, weak bladder, irritable bowel syndrome and prostate problems.
The "We need the Loo" campaign group says far from being a drain on resources public toilets can be an invisible aid to the economy. It says most people will prefer to visit town centres and tourist resorts with good toilet facilities and not being able to answer ‘the call of nature’ when needed can lead to health problems, which leads to greater pressure on the NHS.
It also highlights the growing problem of street fouling, which is a major public health risk, with associated clean-up costs.
With an increasingly aging population, public toilets are also needed to ensure elderly people are not unnecessarily housebound. In a recent survey carried out in Wales, the charity, Age Cymru found that 62% of respondents agreed that the lack of public toilets in their area stops them from going out as often as they would like.
Where can I go?
If you're unhappy with the provision of public toilets you can find the petition on the government’s e-petition web site. Meanwhile, you may be eligible for the Bladder and Bowel Foundation for a 'Just Can't Wait' card. It's a credit card sized card which you can show if you're out and about and which may help you gain access to a toilet.
It states the holder has a medical condition which requires the urgent need of a toilet.
Published on November 10, 2011 BootsWebMD
Further information from:
Mike Bone, British Toilet Association
T: +44 (0) 1403 258779