Spending a penny has never been so costly as campaigners gathered in Margate to protest the closure of a seafront public toilet ahead of the tourist season.
Campaigners and protesters say although they realise structural work needs to be undertaken they do not understand why it wasn’t completed months ago and in readiness for the summer season.
Lib Dem candidate for Cliftonville West Darryn De La Soul and Bus Cafe owner Jodie Eleny-Smith led the protests as families and residents brought an array of cistern-inspired props for the occasion.
Gary Perkins, who is standing in the local elections for Sir Moses Montefiore ward, Ramsgate, went above the call of nature and built a toilet prop for the demonstration. “It took about an hour. It was made from an old stage set,” he said.
Councillior Karen Constantine was at the protest with outgoing Labour stalwart Iris Johnston making an appearance. Music blared from the speakers as demonstrators chanted loo-related slogans.
Trevor Kennett, Head of Operational Services, said: “We have commissioned a full structural and condition survey to understand the full extent of all of these issues and establish what works are needed to make the toilets safe again. Until they can be made safe they will temporarily remain closed to the public.
“While the facilities are in a prime location on Margate Main Sands and are well used by visitors to the town during the summer months, these aren’t the only toilets in Margate. The other sites remain open. Efforts are being made to secure temporary toilets to ensure that there are additional facilities in this area while the Clock Tower toilets are out of action.”
The opening of the seasonal toilets brings the number of available public facilities up to 27 from 20 in the off-season.
A review of public toilets across the isle is currently taking place as part of a bid to save £175,000 in Thanet council’s 2019-20 budget.
Councils are not required by law to provide the loos and continuing cuts to local authority funding have resulted in public toilets plunging by more than 600 across the country since 2010.
In 2010 Thanet council maintained 33 public toilets, dropping to 28 last year.
In January Cabinet members approved the sell-off of sites including closed public toilets in Beresford Gap, Birchington, Marina Road, Ramsgate, Minnis Bay, Birchington, Park Road, Margate, St Johns Cemetery, Margate and Albion Street, Broadstairs.
In February The Isle of Thanet News revealed public toilets in Thanet could be closed in favour of a ‘community loo’ scheme.
The scheme involves businesses putting a sticker or poster in their window to let people know the facilities are available for use. The council then has a monitoring procedure in place, which includes spot checks, and needs to provide extra provision when there are large public events being held.