The future of our public conveniences is always a vexed subject.
These are not cheap facilities to maintain properly and with public spending coming under ever greater scrutiny it is inevitable that questions are raised about how we fund them.
Do we need so many of them? Should we charge for them, and, if so, how much is reasonable?
The vast majority of us do not use public loos very often, but that does not mean that we do not greatly value them. The times when we really need them are when we have no other choice.
The reality is that the city’s network of conveniences are a lifeline for us all from time to time.
It is vital for the good of us all, and for the benefit of visitors, that a decent network is maintained – and kept up to a decent standard.
Because they are a service that we value, most of us don’t object to paying a small fee for using them. We would probably be happy to pay 20p, willingly stretch to 30p, and pay 40p when left with no choice but only through gritted teeth. The proposed new charge does seem steep and may well seem so to visitors, although most will expect to pay a little more in a capital city than elsewhere.
City residents will soon learn that these are loos to be avoided where possible. Many will simply nip around the corner and slip in to one of the neighbouring stores to take advantage of their facilities instead.
You have to wonder what the management at Harvey Nics and John Lewis will make of these new charges given the likely knock-on effect on them.
That leads perhaps to a potential answer to the current dilemma. Could a deal be struck with the developers of the St James Quarter to allow bus station visitors free use of their facilities?
That might involve an annual fee paid by the city but would surely be cheaper than the current arrangements and so everyone would win.