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PUBLIC TOILETS REFURBISHMENT

In April 2016, Yarmouth Town Council took over running the two public toilets in the town from the Isle of Wight Council, to avoid the closure of a very necessary facility for both residents and visitors. As expected, this proved to be a poison chalice, for after years of underfunding and low maintenance, the two blocks were in a shabby state. Yarmouth Town Council has done its best in the face of blockages, mould, leaks and graffiti, but, as they say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and the two blocks remain a poor advertisement for the town.

It’s become painfully clear over the last three years that making that silk purse isn’t going to be achieved by a constant rearguard action with a low budget. It cost over £16,000 last year just to keep these sub-standard loos operational, and, in spite of spending £3,000 of that on improved drainage and new cisterns at Bridge Road, they still remain an unpleasant place to spend a penny.

However, Shanklin Council has shown that there is a way out, and, in spite of the fact that it’s a very expensive one, it shouldn’t cost local residents any extra money, though it will be more than a penny a go. Shanklin had the same problem as Yarmouth, but went for a radical solution - it installed semi-automatic, coin-operated modules from Swedish company Danfo, and their public loos are now a matter of civic pride. Yarmouth Council is considering doing the same thing, but, of course, it won’t come cheap; a survey has been carried out by Danfo, and the price is going to be around £160,000. After your sharp intake of breath, let me tell you that buys 3 semi-automatic unisex modules and a DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) module installed within the current Bridge Road building, and a complete replacement of the Common toilets with a DDA toilet and a single unisex cubicle. So how will this be achieved at no extra cost? Well, not all at once, of course - Yarmouth Town Council just doesn’t have those resources! However, the capital costs can be met by raising a 25-year loan from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB). The interest charges can be covered by charging, say, 20p to all users of the facilities - the two toilets have an annual footfall of around 40,000 - which, together with a projected 50% saving in utility bills and lower maintenance costs, could actually result in LOWER costs to council tax payers! And since most users are visitors, it seems pretty fair they should pay for their use of our conveniences.

Shanklin’s experience has been really positive. They’ve cut their annual spend significantly, they have modern, hygienic toilets with less maintenance and vandalism, and the residents are delighted - they take a real pride in their new loos. If you want to check them out, visit the ones at the top of the Old Village, opposite the bottom of the car park. !

Update: At the YTC monthly meeting on 8/10/19 it was RESOLVED to seek the approval of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government to apply for a PWLB loan of up to £160,00 over the borrowing term of 25 years for the refurbish/rebuilding of the two public toilet blocks in Yarmouth. The annual loan repayments will come to around £9,000. It is not intended to increase the council tax precept for the purpose of the loan repayments, as they will be met from lower maintenance costs and income from the proposed coin-operated cubicles.