Businesses reject proposals to allow public to use loos

Graham Kenny was unhappy at the city's 'community toilets' scheme
Graham Kenny was unhappy at the city's 'community toilets' scheme
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Proposals to get pubs and shops in Edinburgh to throw their toilet doors open to members of the public are set to be dropped after being given short shrift by businesses.

The city council had wanted to introduce a new “community toilets” scheme, offering incentives for businesses that are happy for members of the public to use their facilities.

But the proposals, which were investigated at the same time as the council proposed closing half of its 30 public toilets, are now set to be dropped after businesses showed little willingness to co-operate.

City leaders have instead managed to find an extra £300,000 to review the original closure plan and may now manage to keep all 30 toilets open, while a separate £127,000 refurbishment programme is also in the pipeline.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said: “We will start in the city centre and work out the way but £300,000 will go a long way to ensuring we maintain and refurbish the public conveniences we have.

“There has been talk of trying to encourage shops and bars to make their facilities available and that works well in some areas, but it has not worked well in Edinburgh.”

The London districts of Richmond and Lambeth operate community toilet initiatives that could have provided a model for any Edinburgh scheme.

In Richmond, 70 businesses take part in a scheme where their toilets were advertised as being available to the public in return for being paid £600 a year by the council, while Lambeth’s scheme offers an incentive of £1000 a year.

Council chiefs had hoped that a similar scheme – likely to involve a reduction in a business rates in return for making facilities available – could have worked in Edinburgh as the businesses would benefit from increased footfall that could lead to increased sales.

The move has been resisted by businesses.

Graham Kenny, owner of Has Beans in the Royal Mile, said: “We do not knock anyone away and if someone asks for the toilet they get it, or if they ask for a glass of water they get it. What we didn’t like was it would advertise that we were toilets and not a cafe or food and beverage outlet. It was not going to help us.”

Pub leaders say the proposal conflicted with new regulations that meant pubs needed one toilet for roughly every 30 customers.

Patrick Browne, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said: “There have been a lot of issues with the licensing board about toilet provision. Members of the public could come in and that could impact on capacity, so they could have had to turn people away.

“It may be that the board shot down the council’s own proposal. It’s an example of not very joined-up thinking.”