Publication of Report: The Provision of Public Toilets

Local Authorities should no longer carry on at their own convenience when it comes to the provision of public toilets.

In The Provision of Public Toilets - a report published today - the Community and Local Government Committee is calling for all local authorities to reverse a decline in the number of public toilets.

The Committee recommends that local authorities develop a public toilet strategy for their area, in consultation with the local community, to ensure that more toilets are available to the public.

Chair of the Committee Dr. Phyllis Starkey MP said:

Our overriding recommendation is that the Government imposes a duty on local authorities to develop a public toilet strategy, which should involve consultation with the local community. This will go a long way towards achieving the right of people who live in and visit this country to have accessible and clean public toilets, wherever they live, work or visit.

The Public Health Act 1936 gives local authorities the power to provide public toilets, but imposes no duty to do so. Partly as a consequence of this, the provision of public toilets varies enormously from one local authority to another. Blackpool, Westminster, Brighton and Hove, and Highland came top of the list in the "Annual Loo of the Year" awards as those local authorities that have high levels of provision and standards of public toilets. In contrast, Birmingham, Cardiff and Edinburgh were cited as cities with poor public toilet provision, while the Committee was told that not a single public toilet is to be found on London's South Bank (between Lambeth Bridge and Tate Modern), an area that attracts over 14 million visitors each year.

The Committee recommends that local authorities use their many existing powers to ensure that more public toilets are available, either by using planning, licensing and leasing powers, by running public toilets themselves, or by paying local businesses, such as shops, cafes and pubs, to provide public access to their toilets.

When many of Britain's public toilets were established, men went to work and women stayed at home. To this day, women are catered for on a 50:50 basis at best, and sometimes on a 30:70 basis in favour of men (taking urinals into account) - despite the fact that women make up more than half the UK population, with a higher proportion of older people being women. The Committee wants local authorities to aim to provide a ratio of 2:1 public toilet provision in favour of women.

Other recommendations include standard public toilet signage across the country, better information about public toilets and their location, and the encouragement of establishments selling food and drink for consumption on the premises to provide toilet facilities for customers. The Committee also heard evidence about the pros and cons of charging to use public toilets.

The Committee welcomes recommendations by the London Assembly to improve the provision of public toilets in the Capital. It also recommends that Network Rail carry out an audit of existing public toilets at mainline stations.

Notes to Editors:

The first public toilets were introduced in 1852 and some of the finest surviving architectural examples date from this Victorian heyday.

The Committee heard of one public toilet in Scotland, "where the gents toilets is opened up on a particular day for the ladies to go and look at because it has the most splendid urinals and shiniest brass in the country."

Pop-up urinals are open-air public urinals: they are permanently plumbed into the ground and are flush with the ground when not in use, and some are called 'urilifts'.

The Changing Places Consortium campaigns for public toilets that are spacious and clean, with suitable equipment for severely disabled people.


Committee Membership is as follows: Dr Phyllis Starkey MP (Chair, Lab), Sir Paul Beresford MP (Con), Mr Clive Betts MP (Lab), John Cummings MP (Lab), Jim Dobbin MP (Lab/Co-op), Andrew George (Lib Dem), Mr Greg Hands MP (Con), Anne Main MP (Con), Mr Bill Olner MP (Lab), Dr John Pugh MP (Lib Dem), Emily Thornberry MP (Lab).

Specific Committee Information: 020 7219 1353 or 020 7219 4972

Media Information: Laura Kibby, 020 7219 0718

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