Campaigning for better public toilets for all

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Public Toilet Petition

We Need the Loos Petition logoPublic toilets are not always available where or when you need them, there is often a queue at the ladies, and facilities for disabled people, children and for changing babies are not always adequate.

However, public toilet provision is at the discretion of local authorities, and there is currently no legal requirement for Councils to provide any toilets at all. In fact 40% of public toilets have closed in the last ten years. The campaign group ‘We need the Loo’, a joint venture between the Women’s Design Service, the British Toilet Association and the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering has therefore launched an online petition to ask the Government to make adequate public toilet provision a legal requirement.

They are asking for adequate toilet facilities for everybody, including men, women, children, babies and disabled people.

If you would like to play your part in ensuring we have public toilets as part of more sustainable, comfortable and inclusive communities, please publicise this petition. It has its own Facebook page, and the petition can be found by searching for public toilets on the government’s e-petition web site, or by using this link -

The e-petition website allows anyone to put up a petition, and if any petition gets at least 100,000 signatures, it will be eligible for debate in the House of Commons. So we urge people to sign it, and pass the information on to others so that they can also sign it, and hopefully help bring about truly sustainable communities.

Background Information

  • Public toilets are an essential element of sustainable communities. These are more than communities that save energy – social sustainability means creating and maintaining quality of life for people and as far as possible ensuring that all people are able to participate in and enjoy community life.
  • Many existing public toilets are not easily accessible, or lack facilities for disabled people, and for baby changing, but ‘We need the Loo’ accepts that a limited old toilet is preferable to no toilet at all.
  • Women have been particularly poorly served by public toilet facilities. A woman takes twice as long to use the toilet as a man, but the number of WCs and urinals in men’s toilets usually far outstrips the number of WCs in  women’s toilets, hence the queues at the ladies. Women also tend to be the people caring for the very old, the very young, and the disabled, so lack of suitable facilities for these groups affects women as well.
  • To help compensate for the closure of public toilets, some areas are introducing ‘community toilets’, which are toilets in private premises, usually pubs and cafes, which can be used by the public. The Local Authority will pay the premises owner for providing this facility, which is cheaper than maintaining public toilets. However, although this may assist with toilet provision, it is not a complete answer to the problem. Some people will not want to enter pubs, or the premises may not be open when needed. The toilets may not include facilities for disabled people or for baby changing, and they are not suitable in areas where lots of people may wish to use the toilet – tourist groups, people leaving sports grounds or theatres, or at busy shopping centres for example.
  • A British Standard, BS 6465-4 ‘Code of Practice for the Provision of Public Toilets’ was published last year. This is the first ever standard for public toilets in this country, and it is the first comprehensive guide to the strategic provision, design and management of public toilets. It recommends minimum dimensions and numbers of appliances for acceptable provision in various situations. We would recommend this as a guide to acceptable provision.

Cost and Community Benefits of Public Toilets

  • Public toilets are sometimes seen as a drain on resources, but they can be an invisible aid to the economy – most people will prefer to visit town centres and tourist resorts with good toilet facilities. Recent changes to the law also mean that Councils can now charge for use of both toilets and urinals, (which they could not until recently) which could ensure income for maintenance, and perhaps even additional jobs for toilet attendants.
  • With an increasingly aging population, public toilets are needed to ensure that people are not housebound or lead very restricted lives due to the lack of toilet facilities. It is the intention of the Government to provide support to help older people live in their homes and the community for as long as possible, but Age Cymru has reported that public toilets are a lifeline for the elderly, and without them many people would be unable to leave their homes.
  • Incontinence is the invisible disability, as people do not like to admit to it, but there are many people who suffer from weak bladder syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and prostate problems, to give a few examples. These problems can be made worse by lack of toilet facilities, and restrict people’s lives and employment opportunities.
  • Not being able to answer ‘the call of nature’ when needed can lead to health problems, which leads to greater pressure on the National Health Service.
  • The Government is anxious to get people out of their cars, and make more use of public transport. They also want people to walk and cycle more for health reasons. Many will not do so without adequate public toilet provision.
  • There is a growing problem of street fouling, which is a major public health risk, with associated clean-up costs. This is yet another symptom of lack of public toilets.

For further information, please contact

26 September 2011

Further information from:
Mike Bone, British Toilet Association
T: +44 (0) 1403 258779