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The scale of public toilet closures in Cornwall

The scale of public toilet closures in Cornwall

Published by Sarah Yeomanat 8:05am 18th August 2018. (Updated at 4:28pm 24th August 2018)

Budget cuts mean councils are under pressure to save every penny, and in Cornwall that means fewer places to spend one.

The Duchy has lost nearly all of its public toilets since 2000, according to newly-released figures. Across the area, 231 loos have closed.

Data obtained by the British Toilet Association through a Freedom of Information request shows that there are just 16 council operated toilets, down from 247 two decades ago.

In Cornwall there is one public convenience for every 35,084 residents, compared to one for 10,930 people in the UK.

Pirate FM has asked Cornwall Council for a statement but we have not received a response.

The British Toilet Association has started a campaign called Use Our Loos to encourage businesses to open their toilets to non-customers and make it visible by having a sticker on display.


"We know that councils are under immense pressure with their budgets and despite having no legal obligation to maintain these public facilities, they have continued to try to reverse the rate of decline.

"They are constantly looking at alternative ideas, such as individual Community Toilet Schemes, to provide reasonable provision for their communities.

"Use our Loos is a community-oriented solution not about opening more toilets but making more toilets that already exist accessible to the public".

Director of The British Toilet Association, Raymond Martin

Across the UK, at least 1,541 of these conveniences were closed over the period - a drop of 39%. The figure could be even bigger as many local authorities did not reply to the query.

Local authorities can come to an agreement with private businesses to open their amenities for the public in exchange for a payment or a tax credit.

toilet roll

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: "Councils are doing everything they can to keep public toilets open and ensure there is provision for people with particular needs.

"With substantial reductions to their budgets, councils have had to make tough choices about public facilities but are finding innovative ways of tackling this issue".

Charities fighting for elderly people's rights have denounced the impact of the lack of free toilets.

"A lack of public toilets affects everyone but for many older people knowing there’s a decent public convenience freely available for all enables them to get out and about with confidence, without fear of being caught short or drawing attention to themselves.

"We know that some older people with health conditions choose to stay indoors rather than taking a chance on being able to find a toilet if they need one, so public toilets really do make a big difference to their quality of life".

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director for Age UK 

You can find out more here.

"We recognise that public toilets are important to residents and visitors alike but with huge cuts in funding by central Government we have been forced, like other local authorities, to review the non-statutory services we provide.

"Recognising that finding a solution would take time, we instigated a review of public toilets back in April 2016. Rather than close them, Cornwall Council has been working with the Local Town and Parish Councils and other organisations to transfer responsibility for running the toilets to them. This has been very successful and has saved a great many public toilets from closure. 

"We have now successfully transferred the ownership or management of over 200 public toilets to local city, town and parish councils and local community organisations and businesses. Only 16 toilets have closed to date, but this number could be reduced in the future as other potential solutions are explored.

"There are 20 public toilets in Cornwall that are currently operated by Cornwall Council and we have installed charging to help maintain and keep them open. The Council are continuing to seek alternative service provision for these toilets in the future as part of the ongoing programme.

"As part of the transfer arrangements, the Council has invested around £4.2m in making improvements to facilities. This has brought about significant improvements including improved access for people with disabilities and energy and water saving measures which will help cut future running costs. We’ve also helped install charging where requested.

"Many local councils and communities have secured the future of assets and services important to them by taking over their ownership or management as part of Cornwall Council’s devolution programme."

Cornwall Council

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