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 did 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 remained a poor advertisement for the town.
It had become painfully clear by 2019 that making that silk purse wasn’t going to be achieved by a constant rearguard action with a low budget. It cost £16,000 in 2018/19 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 remained an unpleasant place to spend a penny.
However, Shanklin Council had shown a way out, and, in spite of the fact that it was a very expensive one, it hasn’t cost local residents any extra money, though it is 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 has done the same thing, but, of course, it hasn’t come cheap – around £160,000. After your sharp intake of breath, let me tell you that bought 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 has this been achieved at no extra cost? Well, not all at once, of course – Yarmouth Town Council just doesn’t have those resources! The capital costs have been met by raising a 25-year loan from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB). The interest charges have been covered by charging 20p to all users of the facilities – the two toilets have an annual footfall of around 40,000 – which, together with savings in utility bills and maintenance costs, have actually resulted in LOWER costs to council tax payers, contributing towards a zero precept increase in 2022/3 for the second year running.
Not everyone is impressed, of course. Some users have complained about having to pay 20p to go to the loo, in spite of being able to access brand new, hygienic facilities for a negligible sum, while other more dysfunctional users insist on deliberately trashing the cubicles when using them. However, the overwhelming reaction has been positive, and most users agree that the new loos have greatly improved Yarmouth’s image.