Wales

Public toilet campaign supported by Welsh assembly members

Engaged toilet
Image caption Local authorities do not have legal duty to provide toilets

A campaign for public toilets in Wales to be kept open has been backed by Welsh assembly members.

The Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) has endorsed the view there is a public health case for better public toilet provision.

But the Welsh government said provision was a matter for councils and there was no plan to make it a statutory duty.

A petition asking for the implications of toilet closures to be investigated was delivered to the assembly in 2010.

In the same year, a councillor cycled the length of Wales to raise awareness about a lack of public toilets.

Llais Gwynedd councillor Louise Hughes rode 153 miles (246km) from Gwynedd to Cardiff to meet AMs to ask for an improvement.

She said she was pleased with the HSCC's report.

"All the hard work that not only myself and other people have put in has paid off," she said.

"My ultimate goal is that it becomes a statutory provision that local authorities have to provide public toilets."

Businesses in many parts of Wales are filling the gaps as the number of public toilets falls

The British Toilet Association said the number had fallen about 40% in a decade.

The HSCC's report came in response to the petition that was submitted.

It says potential solutions exist which "merit further investigation by those more expert in local government matters".

Mark Drakeford, chair of the HSCC said: "Lack of public toilet provision does not just affect older people.

"It can be an issue for those with disabilities, with bladder and bowel conditions or those with young children.

"If a person doesn't feel confident in leaving their home without knowing where there is adequate toilet provision, it can leave them alone and isolated, and can impact on both their physical and mental health."

Alarming rate

A Welsh charity, which published its own report in 2009, welcomed the HSCC's report.

Age Cymru's campaigns coordinator Rhea Stevens said: "Public toilets are a lifeline for older people, providing them with freedom, independence and the confidence they need to lead fulfilling and active lives.

"Yet despite this, public toilets are disappearing from our communities at an alarming rate and assertive action is needed to halt this decline."

She added: "The National Assembly for Wales should now take action on the report's recommendations, and further investigate solutions to address the decline of public toilets."

The Welsh government said the provision and maintenance of toilet facilities was a matter for councils, taking account of local needs and priorities.

Public access

"We have no plans to make this a statutory duty," said a spokeswoman.‬

"In 2010-11 we provided local authorities with funding totalling £107,000 to facilitate greater public access to toilets through the Public Facilities Grant Scheme.

"Some 217 businesses across Wales are participating in this scheme, which reimburses local authorities to a maximum of £17,500 per local authority per year for payments of up to £500 made to local businesses for allowing free public access to their toilet facilities."

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