CONTROVERSIAL plans to demolish a town centre toilet block have been given the green light.

A proposal to knock down the George Yard facility has been approved by Test Valley councillors at a meeting on Thursday last week with only two councillors present opposing the move.

However, staunch opponent of the plan Councillor Iris Andersen could not vote or even debate on the application at the Northern Area Planning Committee.

When discussing declarations of interest, Cllr Andersen said she had been advised that as she had already publicly commented on the proposal for the toilets, she had ‘pre-determined’ her position and so could not take part in the debate as a councillor.

However the St Mary’s ward representative, as a public speaker, questioned what would happen if one of the businesses signed up to Test Valley Borough Council’s Community Toilet Scheme was to drop out, leaving fewer facilities in the town centre.

The council’s new scheme pays businesses to allow people to use their toilets without having to purchase a product.

Like other public speakers, she questioned the ease of disabled access to such toilets, adding that for those users some of the scheme’s toilets was like ‘going on an assault course.’

Speaking to the committee, chair of Andover Town Council (ATC) Planning Committee, Cllr Barbara Long, echoed Cllr Andersen’s concerns, adding none of the scheme’s facilities cater for Blue Badge holders.

Upper Clatford resident David Coole, also went up to the podium to object to the demolition saying that until 2016, Andover had a ‘proud record of providing toilets’ but added that he had personally witnessed a wheelchair-bound man having to urinate in an alleyway after the public toilets were closed.

Cllr Carl Borg-Neal was the first panel member to contribute to the debate to remind councillors the closure of the toilets was decided before the application was submitted, and that the meeting’s purpose was only to determine if knocking down the block would be detrimental to the conservation area.

Other councillors agreed with Cllr Borg-Neal’s latter statement, including leader of the council Cllr Phil North.

He added the toilet scheme was set up due to persistent drug use, which caused ‘significant’ public danger and an injury to a council staff member.

Cllr North added it was his ‘number one priority to invest in the town centre.’

However Cllr John Cockaday said he would be voting opposing the plan and even unsuccessfully requested to have his vote officially recorded as ‘against’ in the meeting’s minutes.

All but Cllr Cockaday and another councillor voted to give the green light to the proposal.

But not all are happy with the outcome.

On behalf of ATC, Cllr Long said: “ATC is disappointed that a decision has been made to demolish the public toilets at George Yard car park. 

“There has been no consultation with the Andover community or opportunity for the public to object to the closure until this application to demolish the toilets. 

“TVBC has made a decision, which I have not been able to find in any councils’ committee papers, to close a total of 14 public toilets without proper consultation as recommended by a government white paper on the provision of public toilets.”

Luigi Gregori, chair of Andover and District Liberal Democrats added: “The decision by TVBC to seek and get planning approval for the demolition of the George Yard toilets without a proper public consultation or any real effort in investigating alternatives is a major cause for concern.

“Whilst we accept that TVBC has no legal responsibility to provide public toilets, I believe that when you have an asset already in place, the situation is radically different.

“We fully support the cross-party approach of ATC who has argued persuasively that we need to consult more widely and look at alternatives.”

“We need to get public buy-in for any decision.

“The first step is for residents to lobby their local councillors to review this decision.

“The second step is to look at some of the ideas thrown up by TVBC councillor Iris Andersen.”