Edinburgh council's threat to close public toilets at Colinton sparks residents' protests

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Council chiefs are being urged to think again about a threat to close public toilets in an area where the number of visitors has recently tripled.

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Residents say the loos at Colinton – built in 2009 – are important for the large elderly population in the area but also for people visiting the Colinton Tunnel, where artist Chris Rutterford led a two-year project creating a massive community mural, as well as Spylaw Park and the Robert Louis Stevenson trail or heading for the Pentlands.

A report to Thursday’s transport and environment committee on future provision of public convenience prioritises loos in premier parks, tourist hotspots and local town centres.

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Colinton toilets face permanent closureColinton toilets face permanent closure
Colinton toilets face permanent closure

But is says the Colinton toilets do not fall into the key categories and may have to close unless the community wants to take them over.

Colinton community council has written to the committee saying data gathered in formal surveys for Colinton Tunnel between 2018 and 2020 showed an almost threefold increase in visitors specifically to the tunnel, and by association to Spylaw Park, the Robert Louis Stevenson trail and wider Colinton.

Its letter said: “Surveys over a two-week period in 2018 recorded the total number of visitors as 5,428; and in 2019 over a similar period, 7,449 visitors were recorded – a 37 per cent increase. In the 2020 survey, the comparable number of visitors was 14,987, an increase of 276 per cent since 2018 – on average over 1,000 visitors per day.

Community council chair Tom McDonald added: ”As a community council we have consequently seen growth in complaints about the lack of public toilet facilities in Colinton and the resultant problems of public urination and defecation, with all its implications for public health and loss of amenity."

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In 2018, residents campaigned to save the loos from closing after they were included on a hit list drawn up by council officials as part of controversial budget cuts for the following year.

At that time a total of 16 public conveniences across the Capital were proposed for permanent closure to save £250,000, leaving just two – at Cramond and Portobello – which would open in the summer for beach-goers. The council later abandoned the plan.

And last summer the Colinton toilets were not included in the list of public conveniences opened after the first lockdown was lifted.

Colinton/Fairmilehead councillor Jason Rust said the toilets were in the heart of the village, close to Spylaw Park and the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

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"There is a large elderly population, but there is also now a large number of people coming from further afield. The council did not properly include Colinton in its assessment for reopening last summer and they are working on out-of-date statistics.

"The facilities at Colinton are relatively new, requiring limited maintenance. They are in a good condition and there are not any issues with anti-social behaviour. There is something far wrong if these well-used conveniences do not align with the council’s strategy. It would be outrageous if the council decided to close them.”

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