Four more East Devon public toilets – in Exmouth, Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton – are to reopen after council chiefs agreed to splash nearly £77,000 on the move.
Opening hours of accessible loos across the district will also be extended from 8am to 8pm from Monday, June 29.
It will mean 14 of the area’s 27 conveniences will be available for residents and visitors to use.
Those at Cliff Path in Budleigh Salterton, the Magnolia Centre and Phear Park, both in Exmouth, and Market Place in Sidmouth will be the latest to reopen.
East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) cabinet agreed to the measures at a meeting yesterday (Thursday) – but the five-figure cost will have to be recouped from the budgets of other services.
The meeting heard the issue pitted the council’s Covid-19-hit finances against public health concerns as people are resorting to relieving themselves outside locked loos.
High streets reopening and an influx of visitors – especially to coastal towns – were also behind the proposals.
It will cost £76,962 to reopen the extra four toilets – and extend the opening hours of ten already accessible – over the next nine months.
They will be cleaned four times a day during the summer and three in the winter in a bid to meet stringent coronavirus safety standards.
Councillors also voted to reinstate the StreetScene team’s seasonal budget for agency staff of £62,000.
The authority, which faces a £5.3million deficit because of the coronavirus crisis, will lobby the district’s three MPs for more government funding help as well.
Cabinet members considered a number of options which included reopening all 27 public toilets at a cost of £213,000.
EDDC leader Councillor Paul Arnott told the meeting: “Our coastal towns and major shopping areas must have safe, Covid-19-compliant lavatories restored as a matter of extreme urgency.
“The problem is this will cost somewhere between a lot of money and a hell of a lot of money.”
Service lead Andrew Hancock said: “We know that we need to provide this important service and it is linked directly to our economic recovery and our tourist industry.”
Cllr Geoff Jung, portfolio holder coast, country and environment, told colleagues that the council faces having to ‘penny-pinch’, but ‘health comes before money’.
He added: “We find ourselves in the middle of a perfect storm; much more demand, much less funding, but we have a duty and expectation from the public to provide a normal service.”
Cllr Ian Hall told the cabinet: “This is our best opportunity to support our high streets – we need to give East Devon the best chance to recover.
“We do at the moment have 27 assets that could really give each of our local communities, the towns, coastal or inland, every opportunity to bounce back.”
Cllr Jack Rowland, portfolio holder for finance, added: “I think we have got to face some realities because if we went for Option D [reopening all 27 toilets], where is that money going to be coming from at the moment?
“Unless somebody has got some gold bullion locked away that I’m not aware of, I can’t see where we can save other money.”
Cllr Paul Hayward said Covid-19 has ‘rewritten all the rules’, adding: “Time is of the essence, we’ve got to get the toilets open, we can’t prevaricate. We need to spend now and deal with other financial issues down the road.”
The £76,962 cost will be funded through ‘virement’ – taking cash from one service’s existing budget to pay for another.
EDDC says the reopening of further toilets will be kept ‘continually under review’ as Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed further.
Members also agreed to a review of all loos in the district and a report on the financial implications of building adaptations to make the facilities Covid-19 secure. This will be discussed at a later date.
What public toilets are open in East Devon?
Ten of the district’s 27 loos are currently open from 8am to 4pm. They are
- West Street Car Park, Axminster;
- East End (Lime Kiln), Budleigh Salterton;
- Jubilee Gardens, Beer;
- Foxholes Car Park, Exmouth;
- Manor Gardens, Exmouth;
- Queens Drive/Old Lifeboat, Exmouth;
- King Street, Honiton;
- West Walk, Seaton;
- Connaught Gardens, Sidmouth;
- Triangle, Sidmouth.
From Monday, June 29, these sites will reopen:
- Cliff Path (West End, Steamer Steps), Budleigh Salterton;
- Magnolia Centre, Exmouth;
- Phear Park, Exmouth;
- Market Place, Sidmouth.
All of the above 14 conveniences will be open will be open from 8am to 8pm from Monday, June 29.