A COUNCIL has responded to concerns from residents following the announcement that a town centre public toilets block has been earmarked for demolition.

As previously reported, Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) recently revealed plans to demolish the George Yard car park facility to create five extra parking spaces.

It added the application follows the launch of Andover’s new Community Toilet Scheme in July, in which businesses have agreed to open up their toilets to members of the public without users having to make a purchase.

Residents, councillors and businesses have all raised concerns over the scheme and demolition plans.

The local authority has reached out in hopes of addressing these issues with an exclusive Q&A session.

Community Toilet Scheme Q&A

1. What is the Community Toilet Scheme?

The scheme ties in with part of our overall aim to increase footfall and trade for businesses within the town centre; provide a safer approach to providing toilet facilities and make them free of charge. It also offers substantially increased opening hours and works by participating businesses displaying a sticker in their window to show they are part of the scheme. The scheme complements public toilet facilities that continue to operate as usual at the bus station and in the Chantry Centre. All these facilities are in busy public spaces and as such have not suffered from the drug related anti social behaviour problems that were encountered at the public toilets in our car parks at George Yard and Borden Gate. It is not a cost cutting initiative.

2. What research was done to see if it would work?

The council explored innovative solutions to provide safe, accessible and free toilet facilities, and research revealed that Community Toilet Schemes were working well in other towns such as Portsmouth and Bristol where participating businesses have reported increased footfall and trade as a result.

3. Where are the disabled toilets in the scheme?

All the current participants in the community toilet scheme offer facilities that are suitable for people with disabilities. There are also specific toilets for the disabled at the entrance to the Chantry Centre as well as inside the Chantry Centre, opposite Boswells.

4. Do you plan any adult changing facilities?

These kind of specialist facilities are not readily available as part of public toilet provision in most towns and historically there has only been one adult changing facility - within the Mencap building in the Wellington Centre. We are currently researching the need for an additional facility of this type.

5. Do I have to buy something from one of the businesses participating in the scheme?

No, part of the requirements of the scheme is that people can use the toilet facilities of participating outlets without having to make any kind of purchase.

6. Why not use the George Yard toilet building as alternative accommodation such as a Visitor Information Centre?

The building at George Yard was originally constructed as a public toilet block meaning that the building would not meet the building regulations for occupational use nor could it be converted without very significant expenditure. The council is currently seeking permission to demolish the building.

7. Why demolish the George Yard toilet building for car parking spaces?

The demolition of the building will enhance the visibility of and approach to the High Street from the car park as well as create additional short stay spaces in close proximity to the town centre. Once the toilets are demolished we will be seeking ideas as to any further steps that can be taken to enhance this important access to the High Street.

8. What is happening to the Bordon Gates toilet building?

Unlike the public toilets at George Yard, the building at Borden Gates was originally constructed for occupational use and was later converted in part to provide public toilets. The public toilet element of the building has recently been subdivided. Part has been used to provide accommodation for the Visually Impaired Persons organisation who operate out of adjacent premises. Plans for the use of the remaining part of that block are currently being explored.

9. How much does it cost to belong to the scheme?

Nothing – participating outlets receive an annual payment of £1,500 from the council. This amount was decided after researching the amount paid by other councils who run a Community Toilet Scheme.

10. Are you concerned that public safety around drug users will just transfer to the toilets in the scheme?

Research shows us that this has not happened in other towns operating similar schemes. This has been endorsed by our own experience during the six-month pilot scheme.

11. Where can I get information on the scheme?

On the council’s website: testvalley.gov.uk.

Maps will shortly be placed in all the town centre car parks directing people to the nearest toilet facilities, including those within the scheme.

Participating members all display a sticker in their windows to show that they are part of the scheme. With Costa open from 7am and The Redbridge open until 11pm, the hours of operation have increased substantially from the 8am to 6pm that the council’s public toilets were open.

12. What are the current participating businesses?

(see attached visual that is also on the main maps. This gives details of the type of facilities available, including male/female/baby changing/disabled - and times of opening.)