Have Abingdon Public Conveniences had their day?

January 28, 2013

In November, the Vale of White Horse District Council asked people to respond to a survey of what services are important to them.

137 people responded.
20 people (15%) thought public toilets an important public service.
There were lots of other services but for comparison …
36 people (26%) thought council car parks an important public service.

As a result it appears from last weeks Abingdon Herald that council officers have suggested that the council could save money, by closing the public conveniences.
Abingdon Public Conveniences
The superloo in the car park near West St Helen’s Street has already been decommissioned and is waiting to be taken away. It was probably the least used.
Abingdon Public Conveniences
The superloos near the cricket club could follow.
Abingdon Public Conveniences
As could the normal loo near the Abbey Meadows
Abingdon Public Conveniences
And that at the Charter.

Another question in the survey asked which services are in most need of future investment.
37 (27%) said public toilets.
24 (18%) said Car Parks.

Approximately £40,000 a year can be saved by closing the remaining three public conveniences in Abingdon,

Have Abingdon Public Conveniences had their day?

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64 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. lesley  |  January 29, 2013 at 12:48 am

    Good public toilets are some of the most important facilities a town needs. They are not only important for visitors who have travelled to our town but also for residents when out and about, I hope the District Council continues to maintain at least one public toilet near the bridge by the cricket ground, one in Abbey Meadows and one in the town centre. I also hope that the plans for the next stage of the town centre Charter redvelopment includes some decent public toilets.

  • 2. Paul  |  January 29, 2013 at 6:17 am

    I agree; parents with small children taken short will not be thanking the council. Good public loos are part of good public health.

  • 3. Janet  |  January 29, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Don’t take away the public toilets!! I drive into Abingdon from Oxford and believe me after sitting it traffic I am pleased to visit the toilet at the Charter. I don’t use the one in East St Helen Street as it is disgusting. Swimming in water with bits of toilet paper. Yuk. Small children need the loos also. Unlike Oxford where toilets are available in department stores there are no toilets available in stores in Abingdon. Having no toilets would deter people even further from visiting Abingdon and its shops.

  • 4. rudi  |  January 29, 2013 at 8:53 am

    I don’t think there are toilets in east st helen’s street?
    I think that Abingdon does need it’s loos – and we dont exactly have them coming out of our ears.

  • 5. Pete  |  January 29, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Here’s a thought. Close the loos in the council offices and see how they get on.

  • 6. Milton  |  January 29, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Or open the loos in the council offices to the public – there’s an idea !!

  • 7. Col  |  January 29, 2013 at 9:34 am

    There was a very lively ‘discussion’ on the Oxford Mail Have your say. With the same suggestion either open up the councils toilets to the public, or close them and see how they would get on.

    I noted elsewhere (in a small by line) that the VOWDC are meeting to discuss the 2 hour ‘free’ parking, which allegedly, has left them with a defecit. (rather a slightly larger defecit, since being introduced). I forsee either being reduced, or, further increases on parking charges outside of 2 hours.

  • 8. Annabel (gaskella)  |  January 29, 2013 at 10:00 am

    We must have public loos. The Abbey Meadows ones are essential for the park, in the summer people go thee for the whole day, and all area is used by walkers etc all year round. Town centre ones are an absolute must for emergencies, we don’t have shops large enough to offer toilets for customers. I don’t imagine the museum will want lots of people trekking in to use their loos.

  • 9. Nick  |  January 29, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Are the toilets in public buildings like the Guildhall open for people to wander in and use? Someone is obviously already paid to clean and maintain them. Public toilets did come up in the recent research as being important for visitors so closing them would seem to fly in the face of trying to encourage more tourists to the town

  • 10. hester  |  January 29, 2013 at 10:36 am

    As Nick says another recent survey showed that while visitors to Abingdon-on-Thames generally enjoyed their time here, one of the few negatives (but frequently cited) was the availabily/quality of our public toilets. This survey was commissioned by Choose Abingdon Partnership, on which the Vale is a major player.

    Other departments in the Vale are working hard to improve our offering to visitors – and spending money on it – so clearly THEY think this is an area worth investing in.

    I note that at this stage this is just a suggestion by officers: let’s hope that the Councillors see the value in joined-up thinking.

  • 11. dolly  |  January 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Well how did they ask for people to vote? I don’t remember anything coming through the door!! ONLY 137 replies out of how many households . I agree with Pete we will be queuing in the council offices.

  • 12. Rachel - the other one  |  January 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    I think this is one of those things that we should jump up and down about. If we don’t do this through formal channels, the potential savings will swing the decision towards closure.

    I responded to the survey Backstreeter linked to and the actual response to the toilet provision question was that 38% of respondents thought the council should do more and 54% said they should do the same.

    If toilet funding is pitted against the arts then I think most people would choose toilets. The thing is that both of these things can be funded from elsewhere so there need not be an either or decision.

    Toilets can be sponsored by companies, twinned with other toilets, monitored by a rota of ordinary people, maintenance contracts can be re-negotiated – there are lots of possibilities to explore.

    Would you mind sitting on a toilet seat sponsored by Tesco? Using a sink sponsored by an estate agent? Using a swanky Dyson hand drier sponsored by a newsagent?

    Companies need advertising and the town needs toilets. If you don’t want to spend a £1 to spend a penny then perhaps we need to think about where to get those pounds from.

  • 13. Hester  |  January 29, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I agree with Rachel. First step – as always – should be to lobby our District Councillors who will presumably be voting on this next month.

    Those who don’t know who their Councillor is can find out from the Vale website.

  • 14. Matthew Barber  |  January 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    It’s a shame that the Herald carried such an unbalanced article, and indeed that Cllr Webber chose to ‘run’ with this story on the Council’s budget.

    I agree with the comments above that public toilets are an important local facility. It is true the the draft budget savings produced by council officers highlighted the saving that could be made.

    However the truth of the matter is if the Herald had waited until the actual budget was published next week, everyone would have seen that the Conservatives at the Vale are actually going to invest more than £200,000 in public toilets. This includes replacing some with brand new buildings, and refurbishing others. This is part of a strategy which will be rolled out over the next couple of years to bring every public toilet in the Vale up to scratch.

    They are important to residents and visitors alike and we will invest in these facilities that have been left to rot in some cases for years.

  • 15. abbo man  |  January 29, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    same old Abingdon always much talk but take forever to do anything . The precinct renovation was talked about for years and by the time it started it was too late all the trade has gone to Didcot . I do not think it needs any discussion we need more and new toilets end of discussion and debate . The old toilets are disgusting and the town needs more things for tourists and people of the town such as theatre and cinema etc . I have seen QS/store 21 is up for let so i presume this will be closing soon another town closure . I spoke to a lady who lives in Gainsbourough green Abingdon and she said i have not been in town for 5 years what is the point it rubbish !

  • 16. Another Abingdonian  |  January 29, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    abbo man: I don’t think you have read the previous comment which says that the toilets ARE going to be replaced; also plans are in hand for a cinema, we have a theatre (the Unicorn) which is very well-used and the Guildhall now has a varied programme of music and comedy shows. If your friend in Gainsborough green hasn’t been into town for 5 years, maybe she should come and see – she might be pleasantly surprised.

    PS You also seem to be posting from the future since it is still half an hour to go before your post was sent!

  • 17. Mary  |  January 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    And where do we go if they close the loos?
    I use the Abbey Meadow ones and the Charter, but must admit to being nervous of the ’space-age’ loos!

  • 18. abbo man  |  January 29, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    @another Abingdonian I am from the future i am actually from 2021 and i can tell u the toilets are still not done and the precinct is not finished either . however where pound land is there is a Grandland

  • 19. Nick  |  January 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    It’s early in the New Year, but removing the public loos in Abbey Meadows would be a strong contender for the most ridiculous council idea of 2013. Precisely where are all the young children going to relieve themselves; in the Thames?

  • 20. Neil Boston  |  January 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Come on everyone, the Leader of the council has told us the proposal to scrap our public loos is not going to happen. We can look forward to better ones not less of them.

  • 21. Kat P  |  January 29, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    I’m interested to know why Matthew Barber didn’t share these plans for this investment in public toilets with his own officers before they published the figures.

    Seems a bit cack-handed.

  • 22. rudi  |  January 29, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    we’ll all be cack handed if they close the loos!

  • 23. Shell Suit  |  January 30, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Sounds like a policy U-bend. Sorry I mean U turn.

  • 24. Iain  |  January 30, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Not a u turn – just a fuss about nothing

    Both parties agree public toilets are important.
    Officers are right to continually look for opportunities for saving public money
    A bit of political mischief making by leader of the opposition in the run up to an election

  • 25. Neil Fawcett  |  January 30, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    So Conservative Councillors have asked Council staff to spend time and money costing and publishing savings that they never had any intention of implementing?

    Isn’t that a waste in itself?

    Couldn’t they just have looked up the cost of providing that service themselves?

    Does the same apply to other savings also suggested by Council staff, such as not allowing for inflation in the CAB grant, removing the grants to Christ’s Hospital and the Albert Memorial, halving the grant to the Choose Abingdon Partnership, axing the grants for festivals and charging for new Garden waste bins?

    If the Conservatives have no intention of implementing any of these cuts, what is the point of publishing the list in the first place?

  • 26. Sandy Lovatt  |  January 30, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Come on Neil, as a former councillor you know the form with budgets. These numbers came from a briefing by the council officers to the VOWH Scrutiny Committee (chaired by Cllr Jim Halliday, a member of your own party) on the budget they will be recommending to the Vale Cabinet to meet the policies that have been set. This gives the opposition a chance to prepare a response when the budget is debated by the Council.

    Cllr Richard Webber, Leader of the Opposition, chose to tell the press that toilets will be closed. He neglected to say that this was because they are going to be refurbished and that over £200,000 has been included in the budget for this. When the final budget is published, this distortion will become apparent.

    This issue is a wind-up and has little to do with the truth.

  • 27. Neil Fawcett  |  January 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Sandy – the proposal in the Scrutiny Committee papers is as follows:

    “Close all the standard non-automatic toilets in Abingdon, Botley, Faringdon and Wantage, saving £15,000 each a year. There will be a one-off cost of £3,000 each if the toilets are closed and they can be demolished.”

    This describes the closure and demolition of them and an ongoing saving as a result. It does not refer to refurbishment of them.

    Where in the papers is the £200K for refurbishing the toilets, by the way?

    If it is in there, it seems even more odd to be considering closing them in the same set of papers.

    And what about the other suggestions for savings on the list? Do they all have the same status as the toilets one? If so what’s the point of the list?

  • 28. ChrisG  |  January 30, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Ok we may well need saving but we need to try and measure the impact of any changes on Abingdon and its community. I would go as far as saying we need to improve our public toilets and make finding them easier. I don’t believe those in the Charter Car Park are signed from the Market Place.

  • 29. abbo man  |  January 30, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    why dont you use the toilets in the big retail stores that are in Abingdon as promised …oh wait there arent any . 200k for toilets what about the 4 million on the precinct which has ruined many shop owners from lack of footfall .

  • 30. Daniel  |  January 30, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Shame on you all (council related people, or those who really know what’s what).

    Distortion, mis truths, un truths, spin, poppy cock, not the full picture. All of it! No wonder no one cares, or gets fed up trying to find out what’s really going on!

    Rather than the people of Abingdon being “informed” we are left wih having to pick over the carcass of what’s really going on and trying to decipher what’s actually happening.

    Political point scoring, “secrets and lies”. Exactly what the good people of Abingdon neither want nor deserve.

    It is exactly ALL of this that loses my vote.

  • 31. rudi  |  January 31, 2013 at 12:17 am

    i realised a long time ago that a politician will call for the burning of their own mother if the opposition says that she’s a wonderful person.
    all of them are desperately afraid to admit someone from another party might possibly have a good idea in case it influences a voter to change their mind.

  • 32. Cllr Jason  |  January 31, 2013 at 12:52 am

    Well at least you got it right where the Herald seems to have failed!

    This was an OFFICER suggestion. The Conservative council has no intention of shutting toilets and will actually be proposing a refurbishment of them!

    I for one shall be most pleased!

  • 33. Neil Fawcett  |  January 31, 2013 at 1:10 am

    Does the same apply to all the other ‘OFFICER suggestions’ Jason?

  • 34. patlon  |  January 31, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Back to the practical issue of which toilets to use. I usually use the one in the Guildhall. Up the main steps, turn left down the stairs to the ‘basement’ and the ladies is to the left and the gents over to the right. Conversely, the one in the town council is sometimes locked. For disabled access, use the County Hall/Museum one in the basement using the ‘lift’.

  • 35. davidofabingdon  |  January 31, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Patlon,

    Are members of the public entitled to go into the Guildhall just in order to use the toilets? Would the same apply to the toilets in the Vale offices?

    One thing that surprised me about this whole thing is how LITTLE is spent on public toilets in the Vale.

    To put it in perspective: the cost of maintaining and running every single public toilet in the entire Vale area (223 square miles) for an entire year is £10,000 LESS than the cost of one Council Chief Executive. and just a little more than the cost of one of the strategic directors. (Source: Vale Website)

    Makes you think, doesn’t it?

  • 36. coggin  |  January 31, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Lets face it the toilets are disgusting smelly places and the ones in the abbey meadows are so bad I have walked away rather than risk the wet floors and dirty seats. They can refurbish but in time they too will become just as bad. Either sell them to a private firm and we will have to spend a penny to spend a penny or get shops/pubs or council buildings to allow the public to use their loo’s and agree a £ figure to allow them

  • 37. Iain  |  January 31, 2013 at 11:35 am

    David – guildhall is a public building and we’re delighted to welcome members of the public, whether they wish to spend a penny, attend an event or hire a room.

    I would imagine the same goes for the vale offices but not my bailleywick I’m afraid.

  • 38. Theoxonian  |  January 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Have the Council gone loo-py? They’re only wee places so don’t take up much space surely? ;-)

    No public loos means visits to the Museum toilets, cafes, pubs and Guildhall which is a bit cheeky if not using their services. Surely a good town like ours should provide good public services.

  • 39. Iain  |  January 31, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    See earlier statement from Matthew barber who is leader of the council theoxonian. The original story in tge paper was misleading and tge public loos are not going.

  • 40. abbo man  |  January 31, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Do not waste any more money on this town it is dead and finished . I have spoken to loads of people this week
    and they do not use the town and they live there . I have been in the town this afternoon the sun is shining and it is dead saw around 6 people all with poundshop bags . The shops are empty or closing down there are about 80 cars in st helens car park and around 150 in multi story but up Tesco around 600 and over Didcot sainsbury car park around 1000 get the picture .

  • 41. Neil Fawcett  |  January 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Iain – do you know the status of the other proposed cuts in the ‘officer suggestions’ list? Do your Vale colleagues intend to reduce the grant to Choose Abingdon, for example?

  • 42. Neil Fawcett  |  January 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    As far as Abbey Meadow is concerned I think it would be much better if a holistic approach was taken to the whole area. I’d look at rebuilding the Open Air Pool buildings and incorporating cafe, toilets and servicing the crazy golf and tennis from there.

    You could get much improved facilities at lower revenue cost that way.

    There should be better toilets there and open all year round.

  • 43. Paul  |  January 31, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Loos may well cost (per unit) considerably less than a Chief Exec, but we need more loos than Chief Execs!

    But see my earlier comment; public loos are not an extra but an essential.

  • 44. daniel  |  January 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    @ #42, Neil – that sounds like a good idea. Do you know why it hasn’t been done up until now? Wasn’t another team in the driving seat for a number of years until recently? They seemed to be in charge a fair old while – perhaps they didn’t decide to do it when they had the chance for good reason?

  • 45. Iain  |  January 31, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Neil – I haven’t reviewed the list as I’m not on that council.

    I have had assurances that there is no intention to cut the longstanding grants to Christs hospital or Albert memorial trust.

    I would imagine there will be more debate over choose Abingdon given the vale recently allocated nearly £100k of capital project money to the partnership to spend.

    Obviously, none of the Abingdon Councillors of any party are keen for funding that goes to Abingdon to be cut, but the vale is much wider than Abingdon and I am sure others will be arguing equally strongly for funding for their towns.

  • 46. davidofabingdon  |  January 31, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Paul,

    I was not quoting cost per unit.

    I mean it costs more to run one chief executive for a year than it does to run every single public toilet in the entire Vale of White Horse area.

    I quoted that to show how little investment there is in this (to me) vital public service. Small wonder there have been so many comments about the quality and cleanliness of the toilets when we spend so little on them.

    Good to hear there may be a modest increase of budget.

  • 47. Janet  |  January 31, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Well we wished they didnt close the toilet in St Helens Car Park, because we found an elderly man urinateing against the side of our shop on Monday, mid morning!!!!!! He was promptly given a bucket of bleached water to wash it away!!!!I I cannot repeat what was said to him, but I dont think he will do it again!!!!

  • 48. Paul  |  February 1, 2013 at 6:27 am

    David – thank you; I got the wrong end of the stick… Let’s not go with that;-)

  • 49. patlon  |  February 1, 2013 at 8:54 am

    I think you should not bring officers’ in to discussions such as this. Anyway, the Chief Executive manages the Vale and South Oxfordshire. Conversely, he also looks after, as it were, the toilets in South as well.

  • 50. davidofabingdon  |  February 1, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Patlon:

    We did not bring the officers into this discussion. The officers were the ones who CREATED this discussion by the daftly recommending the closure of all public toilets in the Vale area:

    “Officers at Vale of White Horse District Council have suggested closing all remaining public conveniences the authority provides. ” (Source: Abingdon Herald)

    The suggestion has been castigated by both main political parties and by the general public on both this site and the Herald Website.

    Given that, it is not unreasonable to suggest that what we perhaps need in the Vale is not fewer public toilets … but fewer officers.

  • 51. Nick C  |  February 1, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Lets get this thread to 50 . I was asked yesterday if I had seen the comments on this blog and was I ‘Nick’ . As a co business owner in the town I do have an interest and views on some town centre issues . Just to confirm to anyone wondering I am called Nick but I am not the ‘Nick’ on this blog . Having seen this in the Herald I imediately read it only as a potential option put forward by Council Officers , turned into controversial story by the Herald in combination with an early outbreak of ‘electionitis’ .

  • 52. Neil Fawcett  |  February 1, 2013 at 10:31 am

    @daniel – During the period the Lib Dems were in control they installed the water play area, refurbished and expanded the Abbey Meadow Play Area and did the majot refurbishment of Abbey Grounds (mainly paid for by securing a substantial heritage grant). In their manifesto for the 2011 elections they did set out plans to further revamp the Abbey Meadow area.

  • 53. Neil Fawcett  |  February 1, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Iain – hope you’re right about those grants.

    But if town centre revitalisation is the Vale administration’s priority, cutting the revenue grant for Choose Abingdon seems a backward step.

    On your point about the Vale being more than just Abingdon, that’s true, but they seem to have a worrying tendency to skew money away from us. For example with the Community Grants where they allocate a much higher amount per head to the west of the Vale than to Abingdon, or with the Portas money where they allocated the same amount to Faringdon as to Abingdon, even though it’s only a quarter of our size.

  • 54. Daniel  |  February 1, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    @ 52: Excellent Neil, many thanks for letting me know! It’s good to be reminded that the other team did good things for the town too.

  • 55. Iain  |  February 1, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Neil – you’re posting a lot on this – must be an election coming :)

    Summary 55 posts in and the public toilets are still being improved not cut. There’s no risk to Christs hospital and Albert memorial grants

    Choose Abingdon has still had the £100k capital i refered to earlier, is in good health and continues to do good work.

    Time to end the scaremongering on this lot please.

  • 56. davidofabingdon  |  February 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    he’s posted seven times to your five. Perhaps you have noted the upcoming election date too, councillor?

  • 57. Kat P  |  February 2, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Iain – in what way is it ’scaremongering’ to ask questions about items on a long list of possible cuts that has been published in budget papers by the Council.

    From your answers it looks like at least one of those proposed cuts, to the Choose Abingdon Partnership, may be going ahead.

    Yes, the Partnership may have been given some capital, but that doesn’t change the fact that their revenue funding may be cut. (Out of interest, where is this capital grant in the budget papers?)

    And we still haven’t had an explanation of the purpose of spending staff time on proposals that were apparently never going to be agreed.

    I remain concerned that there seems to be a general trend of resources being skewed away from Abingdon, for example in the way Community Grants are allocated and the way the ‘Portas’ money was allocated, with Faringdon getting the same allocation as Abingdon despite being a quarter our size.

    It seems to me that all these are perfectly reasonable questions for someone interested in Abingdon to raise.

  • 58. Lillian  |  February 3, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Size isn’t everything Kat P.

  • 59. Rose  |  February 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    If we are trying to encourage visitors and tourists to come to Abington, ie.g though the newly revamped precinct, t is ESSENTIAL that we have public toilets oin the town centre and by the the Abbey meadows, particularly for the elderly, pregnant Women and children who have smaller bladders. If there are no public toilets these members s many people will definitley avoid visitng Abindon”.

  • 60. Iain  |  February 3, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Good news Rose – the toilets are being improved :)

  • 61. ybuynu  |  February 4, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I agree with what Jeremy Clarkson said on topgear the reason High street shops are closing is the lack of car park spaces . The supermarkets have more parking than the towns Jez clarkson idea was to remove the double yellow lines allowing people to park in towns and like he said the councils get a couple of quid from the little parking they have but lose £1000s from shop closures

  • 62. Neil Fawcett  |  February 5, 2013 at 11:40 am

    The problem with Clarkson’s suggestion is that a) councils actually get hundreds of thousands of pounds from car parking and b) don’t lose any money directly from shop closures, other than ones they own and rent out themselves.

    Further I can’t think of many roads in Abingdon Town Centre with double yellow lines that could easily be removed without jamming the traffic up.

  • 63. Neil Fawcett  |  February 5, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Iain – surely the run up to an election is exactly the right time to be asking questions of the current administration? It’s the time when people are making their mind up about how to support and judging each party’s record.

  • 64. daniel  |  February 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Off topic I know, sorry, but you’re absolutely right ybuynu…anti car policy has been in place for years and combined with the planning and government policy that has been “pro” supermarket it is little wonder that High Streets and Town centres have done so badly for the past 30 years. Do you know why most towns have more than one supermarket? In the 80’s, when the Competition Committee got involved to see whether it was “unfair” that a supermarket was in town, and if this would have an effect on town centre vitality…they decided that it was indeed unfair. “A” supermarket was not fair at all…and that to provide adequate choice…more than one supermarket should be allowed….and so the floodgates opened. Plentiful, free and convenient parking at a supermarket….it’s no wonder town centres can’t compete – even if there are ones that want to! Would charging a pound a time at a supermarket carpark help? Could that be used to put back in to town centre regeneration? Could supermarkets do more for the towns they destroy? Probably. But is anyone willing to instigate this….it seems not. I believe that some initiatives have been mooted for Abingdon and Tescos…but not sure what happened to these ideas – although I am sure some political scare mongering/stone throwing would come to light well before any truths be told… Next we’ll turn round and see that the supermarkets have decimated our local food producers. Before we realise it there’ll be little choice left. Oh, hold on…..

    And…to make it relevant again…the supermarkets also have free public toilets!

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