Welwyn Parish Council provides a Community Toilet Scheme with public toilet facilities, in partnership with a local village business: The White Hart (AL6 9EN) at one end of the High Street on the corner with Prospect Place. Community Toilet Schemes are a successful feature of many villages and small towns through to London Boroughs. The Welwyn scheme was the first in Welwyn Hatfield.
This scheme enables a local business to work together with the council to provide cleaner, safer and more accessible toilets in more convenient locations for residents and visitors to the town or village centres, at the same time saving money for residents. Under the scheme, the council and the business sign an agreement to let members of the public use their toilet facilities free of charge during normal opening hours and without the need to make a purchase. Of course, the business would be only too happy if users were to enjoy a drink or a meal, but it isn’t obligatory. A scheme member is currently paid an annual fee by the Council depending on the facilities they provide, such as baby changing facilities.
Several years ago, our village public toilets (located in a dark corner adjacent to Lockleys Drive Car Park) regrettably had to be closed. They required major upgrade to meet disabled access standards, had suffered collapsed drains, were subject to vandalism and anti-social behaviour and needed a total refurbishment. The cost of all this work would have been over £20,000. In addition, the Parish Council paid business rates (yes – on a public toilet!) of around £800 a year and then the facility cost over £460 a month for opening, closing, daily cleaning and maintenance.
Although the facility was important (particularly for nearby allotment users) it was at one end of the village, away from the centre with its shops, pubs and restaurants and difficult to oversee out-of-hours. There was also widespread concern that anti-social behaviour would recur to cause disturbances and vandalism which would increase expenditure. The Parish Council felt that this did not represent the best use of limited funds, but recognised that a public toilet facility was most welcome and important. Having investigated alternatives, the Community Toilet Scheme offered the best approach. The location of the toilets is signposted at various points in the village for the benefit of visitors as well as residents and these signs indicate the name and address of the participating business, the facilities provided and direction of the establishment. The participating business also displays a small sign in their windows identifying that they are a member of the Welwyn Community Toilet Scheme and the type of facilities available.
Any business signing up to the Scheme agrees to maintain their toilets in a clean and hygienic condition, with adequate toilet rolls, soap and hand dryers or hand towels. The Parish Council will undertakes random “spot checks” to ensure required standards are being maintained. The village benefits from well-maintained toilet facilities, properly cleaned and maintained by their providers and offering a welcoming and safe environment.
Excluding the capital cost of refurbishment and upgrade, the old toilets cost approximately £ 8,650 per year to operate; the annual Community Toilet fee paid to a host is approximately £ 1,500 for a superior quality provision and thus represents a major improvement in cost-effectiveness.