Edinburgh council urged to explain decision which looks like spelling closure for Colinton's public toilets

Campaigners fighting to stop the closure of public loos in Colinton are demanding a full explanation of the city council's rationale for scrapping them.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 4:55 am

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Councillors approved a new strategy last month on the provision of public toilets in the Capital but singled out the ones at Colinton as falling “outside the terms of the proposed plans”.

Environment convener Lesley Macinnes is due to meet Colinton community council and other local groups to discuss the potential for transferring the toilets to the community but if that does not prove feasible the council says a decision would have to be made on whether to close them.

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Colinton public toilets do not fit with the council's future plans

The new strategy says provision of public toilets should focus on premier parks, areas promoted as places for higher numbers of visitors, local town centres and travel centres.

But community council chair Tom McDonald said there was no definition of “premier” parks. "Saughton Park seems to be regarded as a premier park and I suspect our footfall is well ahead of that.”

He said the Colinton toilets were well-used by bus drivers, people using the Water of Leith Walkway and Spylaw Park as well as visitors going to and from the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

And he noted no detailed costs had been published for the different toilets. “Because our toilets are modern and not vandalised, they are probably among the cheapest to keep in Edinburgh,” he said.

The Colinton toilets are a small building on a small site.

On the idea of a community asset transfer Mr McDonald said the toilets were a small building on a small site with no other obvious use. “The only practical future I can see for the toilets at Colinton is toilets.”

And he said if the council was suggesting the community should run them as toilets it would have to provide funding.

Mike Scott, chair of the Colinton Tunnel, where a 140-metre long mural was completed last year, said an average of 1,000 people used the tunnel every day.

“Part of the reason we set it up was a very deliberate attempt to bring folk to Colinton because in 2016 all the local banks closed and about half the local businesses then failed. We have run an annual count of people coming through the tunnnel, in other words using the Water of Leith Walkway, which shows the number has increased threefold in just over two years. At the height of lockdown, one wet Saturday last October 2,200 people went through the tunnel.”

And he said with the loos closed during the pandemic, people used the area round about as a public toilet. “You see them shooting off into the undergrowth and coming back looking a lot happier.”

Colinton Conservative councillor Jason Rust said there was “no real transparency and very limited understanding” of how the council had arrived at its decision on the Colinton loos and called for it to “come clean”.

He said: “I am really disappointed the council has as yet not provided a document which thoroughly outlines the basis for its strategy. Strategic decisions need to be based on clear evidence.”

Cllr Macinnes said: “I’ll be meeting the Colinton community along with senior officers following my offer to discuss this further when they made deputations at council. This will give us a further opportunity to listen to their concerns and explore potential solutions.”

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