Edinburgh Leisure urged to open toilets at its venues to general public

Edinburgh Leisure is being urged to restore public access to toilets at its venues to help people caught short when they are out.

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Councillors will on Thursday be asked to press the arms-length organisation to comply with council policy and allow the general public to go to the loo in its buildings.

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To make up for the Capital’s limited provision of public loos, the council has a scheme which pays businesses to make their toilets available and also allows access to toilets in council premises.

Edinburgh Leisure venues were part of the community toilet scheme before the pandemic, but have not been allowing the general public to use the toilets at its sports centres, swimming pools and other buildings since they reopened after Covid.

Now Portobello/Craigmillar SNP councillor Kate Campbell has tabled a motion at full council calling for officials to work with Edinburgh Leisure to ensure the council’s policy is implemented.

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She said: “During the pandemic, for very good reasons, Edinburgh Leisure closed access to the general public from their toilets, but since the lifting of restrictions they have not opened them up.”

She said the issue had been highlighted in her area because of the number of visitors flocking to Portobello on hot, sunny days. Although there were public toilets, the loos at Tumbles gymnastics and soft play centre and Portobello swim centre were not available for the public.

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Portobello Swim Centre is one of the venues where the public cannot use the toilets. Picture: Phil Wilkinson.

“I get lots of complaints from residents about people not having access to public toilets and therefore doing their business in the street.

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“My view is these are arms-length council-run buildings and their facilities should be available for people. It's something that would make a big difference. If it could be done before the pandemic then I think it can be done now that things have opened up again.”

But Edinburgh Leisure said a staff shortage meant it did not have the personnel needed to escort members of the public to the toilet and to the exit afterwards. Access to the toilets was, however, still available to those with the “Can’t Wait” cards carried by many people with specific medical conditions.

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Chief executive June Peebles said: “Pre-Covid, Edinburgh Leisure opted voluntarily to be part of the council’s community toilet scheme. However, access to toilets at Edinburgh Leisure venues was restricted to customers during Covid-19 due to track-and-trace requirements.

“The reason we have continued to restrict use of the toilets is due to the need to control access and supervise and the cleaning implications. We simply do not have sufficient staff to carry out these duties effectively.

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Recruitment in the leisure sector continues to be challenging and my priority is delivering Edinburgh Leisure services and the health and safety of our customers. We are carrying a number of vacancies for front-line staff. To date we have managed, due to the goodwill of staff giving up holidays and working additional hours, to avoid significant closures but we have had to close pools due to staffing shortages and some of our services, such as the swim coaching programme, are limited, due to the availability of suitable personnel.

“Even if we did have sufficient people resources to carry out the additional duties, there are also the financial implications. To enable public use of the facilities at Portobello Swim Centre, for example, would cost around £2,000 per week. There are currently no funds available to meet such costs.”

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