Lothian Buses could fund community toilets

Picture by JANE BARLOW. 7th August 2013. Buses along Princes Street, Edinburgh.
Picture by JANE BARLOW. 7th August 2013. Buses along Princes Street, Edinburgh.
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The Capital’s bus drivers are often grateful to find a handy public convenience during a long shifts on the city’s roads.

And with the city set to axe a string of public toilets Lothian Buses may be about to ride to the rescue of those looking for a spot of relief by helping to fund alternative facilities.

The council-owned bus company is in talks with the council about contributing to a new community toilets scheme which would pay high street businesses to open their loos to drivers and the general public.

The idea is being considered as the the city looks to cut spending on public toilets by £300,000 as part of an effort to save £22 million in the coming year.

Original plans to cut toilet funds by £600,000 during the coming financial year have been scrapped, although the current plans would still result in around ten public conveniences outside the city centre being closed.

Colin Keir, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western and a former driver with Lothian Buses from 1995 to 2007, said the innovative move was welcome. He said: “The one thing that bus drivers need is toilets – if you’re on a four-and-a-half hour drive at some point you will require one.

“It’s not like working in an office where you have the conveniences in the building. You’re out and about, and you have to have access to something on the journey.”

Cafes, shops and restuarants would be asked to take part in the initiative, if the plan is approved, with “urban villages” such as Bruntsfield, Canonmills and Portobello, likely to be among the first places targeted.

Similar projects in Cornwall and Perthshire have been studied in a bid to gauge whether the idea could work in Edinburgh. A similar idea was floated four years ago – amid plans to scrap half of the Capital’s public conveniences – but foundered after a cool response from firms.

“I think the success of this will depend on the people whose premises you wish to use,” said Mr Keir.

“If the business is willing then fair enough but if they’re not signing up then you have a bit of a problem.

“The other thing they have to remember is that there has to be space for the buses to actually stop. I hope they’ve thought this out.”

Plans to close toilets have sparked anger in many quarters – including from the Edinburgh and Lothian Prostate Cancer Support Group.It said men with the illness depended on a well-maintained and extensive network of public conveniences.

Senior figures at Lothian Buses and the city council were today tight-lipped about a possible collaboration and said only that discussions were “at an early stage”.