Edinburgh public toilets: Council investigates why developers did not build new public loos at Haymarket
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Community campaigners calling for public toilets in Gorgie and Dalry told the council’s transport and environment committee there had been no public conveniences in the area since the closure of loos at Ardmillan Terrace in 2015. Officials have now been asked to bring forward a report on the provision of toilets in local high streets across Edinburgh, but they warned funding would be an issue.
SNP councillor Stuart Dobbin said that when the council sold developers land which included the public conveniences at Morrison Street, it was made a requirement that they would either provide public toilets as part of the development or pay the council to provide them on an alternative site. “A burden was put on the title that any development on this land would provide replacement public conveniences; this was not just a contractual agreement but forms a burden registered in the Land Register of Scotland against the land.”
Cllr Dobbin said: “It’s very important that that be enforced and perhaps that’s a source of providing a solution to some of the funding at least.” Committee convener Scott Arthur said there had been some discussion on the matter before the meeting. “There was some uncertainty over what had happen to that, whether or not a deliberate decision had been made just to close that off or if it’s still hanging somewhere. So I think the report needs to do a bit of investigation to make sure there’s a paper trail there. It’s very important, given the size of the development.”
SNP councillor Finlay McFarlane backed Cllr Dobbin and said he would like to see a legal opinion on whether the burden on the developers could be enforced. “It’s an absolute scandal that that happened. It’s outrageous.”
Olly Brown, from Living Rent Gorgie/Dalry branch, who brought a petition to the committee, calling for public loos in the area, said access to pubic toilets was a basic human need and a vital necessity for public health and hygiene. He said: “Since the closure of the Ardmillan Terrace public toilets in 2015, residents in Gorgie and Dalry have had no access to public facilities in their high streets. This issue should be rectified by the council as soon as possible by building a new public toilet available 24 hours a day seven days a week in Gorgie/Dalry.”
He said the area had a bustling high street, a large population and Murrayfield and Tynecastle stadiums brought huge numbers to the area. “On match days residents have been subject to frequent cases of public urination in valued green spaces.” Mr Brown said there was widespread community support for their call and the petition had attracted 578 signatures.
SNP councillor Danny Aston said the council’s community toilet scheme, where businesses were paid to make their toilets available to the pubic, “clearly hasn’t worked at all”. He suggested toilets at Gorgie City Farm might be a useful option to explore. But the campaigners said they would not be available 24/7 and might not be appropriate for crowds of football or rugby fans.
Dan Heap, Green councillor for Sighthill/Gorgie, said the nearest public toilets were 25 minutes’ walk away. “This is an area the council are aspiring to make a 20-minute neighbourhood.” And he said the redevelopment of Haymarket station was a missed opportunity to have at least some public loos in the area. “There is limited toilet provision and they’re all behind ticket barriers so you need to buy a train ticket to get access to those.”
The council agreed a policy in 2021 that local high streets should have public conveniences. And the report by officials will look not only at Gorgie/Dalry but also other high streets without toilet provision.
Operational services director Gareth Barwell told the committee: “St John’s Road [in Corstorphine] used to have a public convenience – that was closed. The dawn of Covid and people’s use of local high streets reinvigorated the debate and focus on public conveniences. I would agree they are essential for us as a city, but this report will be pretty straightforward – the issue is identifying the funds to deliver the aim, not only in Gorgie/Dalry, but I can think of at least two or three local town centres that would have the same issue.”