PUBLIC toilets at one of the busiest spots in the city centre will be axed under plans to bring a historic landmark building back into use.
The Tron Kirk in the Royal Mile, last used for worship more than 60 years ago, is due to be given a new lease of life as a visitor centre by the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust (EWHT). But because the building – described as one of the Capital’s “architectural treasures” – has no toilets, councillors propose incorporating the neighbouring Hunter Square loos into the centre.
The toilets would remain but the public entrance would be blocked off, leaving access only via the Tron Kirk. This would mean the nearest public toilets for those caught short were about half a mile away – at Castlehill or The Mound.
Council chiefs say a review of public toilet provision is due to be carried out later this year, but there was so far no specific proposal to replace the Hunter Square facilities.
Bill Cowan, chairman of the Old Town Community Council, said there seemed to be fewer and fewer public toilets in Edinburgh. He said the loss of a public convenience at the heart of the Royal Mile was “contrary to every civilised notion you can have”.
He said: “It’s absolutely appalling that a city like Edinburgh that spends so much on promoting itself as a beautiful visitor destination can neglect such an important service.
“This is a tourist city and tourists need toilets. I know budgets are under pressure, but you have to decide on priorities – and if you look down the road at East Lothian, they provide public toilets which are very clean, well maintained and therefore they don’t get vandalised. If East Lothian can do it, surely Edinburgh can.”
He said withdrawal of the Hunter Square toilets would force the desperate to visit the nearest pub or restaurant, which was likely to cause complaints.
A report to tomorrow’s meeting of the city council’s economy committee says in addition to the creation of a major visitor attraction, an important part of the EWHT’S proposals is the restaurant/cafe bar space – “which gives rise to an increased need for adequate toilet provision” to meet licensing criteria.
The temporary use of the building at Festival time in recent years has included a special arrangement for people to use the Hunter Square loos.
The report continues: “It is proposed that EWHT will incorporate the Hunter Square toilets in the redevelopment proposals. “Alternative provision will be considered as part of a city-wide review of public convenience provision.”
Environment convener Lesley Hinds said the Hunter Square toilets were “not fit for purpose” because they had no disabled access, and added the plan to incorporate them into the Tron development made sense. She said: “The first priority is to make sure we get the Tron up and running”
She said the new centre at the Tron was not likely to open for another two years, which gave plenty time to consider other options, which could include automatic toilets like the ones in St Andrew Square.
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