The well-attended demonstration in Ore and Cllr Peter Chowney’s opinion piece in the Hasting Observer underline the controversial nature of HBC’s proposal to close two sets of public toilets in Hastings.
The council budget is under pressure, no doubt, but is this anti-social measure really a reasonable proposal?
Cllr Chowney uses much of his article to argue that the measure is justified because (a) many other councils are closing toilets and (b) they are expensive to maintain and (c) there are alternatives available. What other councils may or may not do is not a justification for HBC to follow suit.
Even though the provision of public toilets may, unbelievably, not be a legal obligation for the council, the provision of decent, accessible, clean, public conveniences undoubtedly is the mark of a civilised and caring society that respects the basic needs of all sections of the population from children, through mothers and babies, to the elderly.
The saving of the cost of maintaining the Harold Place toilets is, we are told, £64,000 per year. That is equivalent to 71p per head per year of Hastings’ population – far less than the cost of a cup of coffee. In the past there was civic pride in the provision and maintenance of high quality public amenities.
Shamefully, even though we are a rich nation, we are cutting back on public provision.
It is particularly shameful that this proposal is coming forward under a Labour administration which should be building facilities and promoting measures for the common good.
Cllr Chowney claims that there are five other public toilets within a 500 metre radius of Harold Place.
When need arises, 500 metres is a considerable hike for the elderly or for a mother with small children and only one of those toilets he mentions, Pelham Place, is council run and so truly public.
The position in Ore is dire. There are no other options. Even the pubs that used to exist in the village centre have disappeared and none of the three supermarkets in Ore have customer toilets.
Does Cllr Chowney actively want to discourage customers from shopping in Ore?
I urge HBC to listen to the good sense of Cllr Wincott as quoted in your coverage of last Saturday’s Hastings Ore WI ‘Loo Queue’ protest.
Ore is a busy shopping area used by locals and visitors alike. A closure of the public toilet would disadvantage vast numbers of people.
More generally, for the increasing number of elderly people in the population, going out is constrained by the knowledge that they will probably need a loo sooner rather than later.
If they cannot rely on public facilities, they cannot go out. And, Cllr Chowney, you will be old one day, too.
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