Council asks shopkeepers to open toilets to public

Pete Jackson's Earthy cafe and shop in Canonmills is directly opposite a public toilet. Picture: Greg Macvean

Pete Jackson's Earthy cafe and shop in Canonmills is directly opposite a public toilet. Picture: Greg Macvean

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HIGH street businesses in the Capital are to be asked to open their loos to the public – while council toilets are axed.

Shops, cafes and restaurants willing to sign up to a “community toilet scheme” would display adverts telling passers-by their facilities are available.

The arrangement is being considered in a bid to offset the proposed closure of lesser-used public toilets outside the city centre.

It is understood the initiative is set to be rolled out in “urban villages” such as Bruntsfield, Canonmills and Portobello, where lower footfall would make it feasible.

Free publicity on council brochures and custom from members of the public caught short are among incentives which could encourage company owners to take part, although there is no indication reduced business rates would also be on offer.

Similar projects in Cornwall and Perthshire have already been studied in a bid to gauge whether the idea could work in Edinburgh.

A joint toilet agreement was floated four years ago – amid plans to scrap half of the Capital’s public conveniences – but foundered after a cool response from firms.

And members of Edinburgh’s business community said they remained unconvinced by the latest proposal.

Pete Jackson, owner-director of the Earthy cafe and shop in Canonmills, which is located directly opposite a public toilet, said: “So they’re looking at cutting back on their toilets and I have to pay my cleaners more to keep my own toilets clean? It doesn’t make sense.

“My toilets are for customers. I think that if they have trialled something in the city centre and it hasn’t worked then its going back over old ground to try it out here.”

Linda Crookston, manager at Cafe Grande in Bruntsfield, branded the idea a “non-starter”.

“If someone comes in and asks, fine, we’d never say no,” she said. “But I think that to say it’s open to everybody would be problematic. It would just snowball.

“Our toilets are right beside a table where people are eating. If you’re sitting having dinner, the last thing you want is people coming in willy-nilly.

“In terms of extra custom, it doesn’t happen that people buy or come back just because you’ve let them use the toilet.”

But Calum Haggerty, owner of high-end chocolatier Coco of Bruntsfield, said he thought community-minded businesses would sign up.

“I think the locals would be less happy about losing their public toilets but if they’re asking locals businesses to step in, I think lots of them will,” he said.

Council leaders - who hope to save £300,000 through closing public conveniences outside the city centre - said the toilet initiative was subject to consultation,

A spokeswoman said: “No decisions will be made until we have carefully considered all of the feedback we receive.”