Residents asked for views on future of East Devon public toilets: £3million to be splashed on improvements, but some loos face closure

Residents are being asked how £3million should be splashed on improving public toilets in East Devon – but a handful of loos could face closure or redevelopment.

District council chiefs want to hear from householders on proposals that also include a ‘pay-to-use’ idea.

Options on the table include ‘important’ conveniences in Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, Beer, Exmouth, Honiton, Seaton, and Sidmouth are in line to be refurbished.

But other loos in Budleigh, Exmouth Seaton and Sidmouth have been earmarked for possible ‘alternative uses’, sale or redevelopment.

And a handful of ‘less-used’ facilities in Budleigh, Colyton, Exmouth, Seaton and Honiton face closure unless town councils or community groups take them on.

A public consultation runs until 5pm on Friday, October 1.

“Most of our public toilets are now requiring major updating,” said portfolio holder for coast, country and environment Councillor Geoff Jung.

“A total reappraisal is now required of where toilets are required and what facilities are important for residents and visitors.

“We plan to invest £3million in our toilets to create top-class, premier facilities to be proud of.”

East Devon District Council (EDDC) bosses say the huge investment will aim to provide the ‘best, most modernised’ conveniences ‘in the right place’ – saving it cash in the long run.

‘Alternative uses’ for some sites could include loos being provided by businesses or organisations – such as a café or community facility with a public toilet.

An idea for ‘pay-to-use’ public conveniences could ‘help pay for the running costs of the toilets that are important for residents and tourists alike’, says the council.

EDDC says a decade of cuts in government funding means it is facing a £3million shortfall in 2022 unless it changes how it operates some services.

The authority spent £473,000 in 2019 running 30 public toilet sites; 26 owned and operated by it and four maintained for others.

This amounts to an average of £15,786 a year to directly look after each toilet block.

Cllr Jung added: “We know that public toilets are important to residents, vital to our visitor economy, and an emotive subject, which is why we are asking for your views, so we understand what you consider is important.

“We have to look at doing something differently as we can no longer afford to continue with the status quo, and we believe the proposals we have put forward offer the best balance of high quality accessible public toilets, additional uses that would be a benefit and provide a service that is sustainable for the future.”

Residents can fill out an online questionnaire on the proposals here.

East Devon public toilets proposals explained – what’s planned for your local loo?

EDDC says it has spent time reviewing the area’s toilets and categorising them – A, B, or C – depending on their location and use.

Category A

These are ‘important public toilet sites which underpin the community, visitor economy or town’.

The council has vowed to ‘continue to invest and maintain’ these facilities and refurbish them.

They are:

Axminster

  • West Street Car Park Public Toilets. Running costs: £16,258.12 a year.

Budleigh Salterton

  • Cliff Path (West End/Steamer) Public Toilets. Running costs: £15,271.54 a year;
  • East End (Lime Kiln) Public Toilets. Running costs: £18,279.88 a year.

Beer

  • Jubilee Gardens Public Toilets. Running costs: £39,692.09 a year.

Exmouth

  • Foxholes Car Park Public Toilets. Running costs: £22,543.95 a year;
  • Magnolia Centre (London Inn) Public Toilets. Running costs: £28,881.03 a year;
  • Manor Gardens Public Toilets. Running costs: £24,599.32 a year;
  • Queen’s Drive Public Toilets. Running costs: £20,495.53 a year;
  • Phear Park Public Toilets. Running costs: £12,893.16 a year.

Honiton

  • Lace Walk Public Toilets. Running costs: £27,365.82 a year.

Seaton

  • West Walk Public Toilets. Running costs: £33,670.32 a year.

Sidmouth

  • Connaught Gardens Public Toilets. Running costs: £28,251.07 a year.
  • Triangle Public Toilets. Running costs: £22,100.20 a year.
  • Either the Market Place or Port Royal Public Toilets would be retained depending on any redevelopment of these sites, or there would be new alternative provision. EDDC says this would be a prime tourist/town centre location. Running costs: £40,588.09 a year for the Market Place and £7,407 for Port Royal.

Category B

These toilets are ‘still relevant locally, but less well-used’ or where there are multiple loos nearby.
The council is to ‘look at other options’ for the use of these sites.

This could include marketing a lease opportunity for a different offer such as a café, to include a publicly-accessible toilet, or to sell the public toilets, depending on the options for each particular site. Town or parish councils and community groups could bid for these sites as well.

They are:

Budleigh Salterton

  • Station Road Car Park Public Toilets. The site has ‘potential for redevelopment’ together with the Lower Station Road Car Park, says the council. Running costs: £15,021.62 a year.

Exmouth

  • Imperial Recreation Ground Public Toilets. This site is around a four-minute walk from the toilets in Manor Gardens. However, it could offer a very good café/bar, says EDDC. Running costs: £24,058.37 a year;
  • Orcombe Point Public Toilets. Around a four-minute walk to the larger Foxholes toilet block. Running costs: £6,371.78 a year;
  • The Maer Public Toilets. EDDC says these could be ‘better-used as a cafe/bar with community toilets’ and potentially link with a barbecue area. Running costs: £8,951.94 a year.

Seaton

  • Harbour Road Car Park Public Toilets. EDDC says the town is served by West Walk public toilets nearby. Running costs: £26,972.73 a year.
  • Hole Public Toilets. As above, EDDC says Seaton is ‘best-served’ by West Walk public toilets, with additional loos available at Tesco and the Chine Hideaway cafe. Running costs: £25,142.83 a year.

Sidmouth

  • Market Place Public Toilets. The council says these offer a ‘significant redevelopment opportunity’ as a town centre site. Running costs: £40,588.09 a year.
  • Port Royal (Alma Bridge) Public Toilets. These have ‘potential for commercial use tied to Port Royal,’ according to EDDC. Running costs: £7,407 a year.

Category C

These toilets are those EDDC says it can no longer afford to run and are sites that are ‘less-used or in locations served by other facilities’.

Town councils and community groups could be given the chance to run them.

They are:

Budleigh Salterton

  • Brook Road Car Park Public Toilets. Running costs: £1,761.94 a year.

Colyton

  • Dolphin Street Car Park Public Toilets. Running costs: £7,105.87 a year.

Exmouth

  • Bus/Train Station Public Toilets. These have ‘very low usage’, says EDDC. “This site is at a gateway to the town, but directly benefits the station and could be operated by others,” says the council. “The building can’t be used as anything other than a public toilet. [It] could be re-modelled as part of the motorhome parking project pending councillor approval.” Running costs: £24,541.37 a year.
  • Jarvis Close Public Toilets. Running costs: £10,000.23 a year.

Honiton

  • King Street Car Park Public Toilets. EDDC says the town is well-served by Lace Walk Public Toilets. Running costs: £11,534.96 a year.

Seaton

  • Marsh Road Public Toilets. EDDC says the town is well-served by West Walk public toilets. It adds that Tesco has publicly-accessible toilets, as does the Chine Hideaway cafe and other attractions. Running costs: £20,910.43 a year.

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