A Birchington Parish Councillor says the toilets at Minnis Bay should be among those being reopened tomorrow (May 23) following reports of visitors “defecating and urinating in public areas” during hot weather this week.
Minnis Bay was among the beaches to attract large crowds during the hot weather on Wednesday but there are no facilities open which led to reports of people using the space behind the stored beach huts at the car park as a toilet. Volunteer litter pickers say they had to remove used toilet paper from behind the huts on the Prom and one resident expressed dismay at “piles of human waste behind the stored beach huts and the entrances to the toilets swimming with urine.”
Public toilets across the isle were closed on March 25 under government guidelines due to the Covid pandemic. Tomorrow four toilet blocks will be reopened in Margate, Ramsgate, Viking Bay and Joss Bay in time for the bank holiday.
But facilities at Westgate and Birchington will remain closed – despite both areas attracting visitors to beaches following the relaxation of ‘lockdown’ restrictions earlier this month.
Parish and district councillor Phil Fellows says the toilet closure creates another public health hazard.
He said: “I’m disappointed that our facilities in Minnis Bay are not open this bank holiday weekend. I was against the toilets opening initially but the sheer escalation in numbers heading for our beaches made it obvious that we need them open.
“Reports of defecating and urinating in public areas is alarming and a health hazard. Birchington Parish Council looked to pay for portaloos at Minnis Bay but there were too many health and safety issues for us to deal with at short notice.
“Lack of information and mixed messages have caused this situation. Clear messages need to be given out by Thanet council stating that facilities remain closed and to discourage people from travelling to our coastal areas.”
Thanet council is not asking visitors to stay away but is asking people to act responsibly.
Cllr Steve Albon, Cabinet Member for Operational Services, said: “Following the shift in the Government’s lockdown restrictions to allow people to spend more time outside, we have been working to find a safe solution for the reopening of some of our public toilets.
“We recognise that people are choosing to make the most of the new guidelines but we want to reiterate that they must do so safely and respectfully. At the beaches where there aren’t any open toilets, using the surrounding area is totally unacceptable. We are doing all we can to offer some provision on our main beaches initially and ask that people plan ahead.
“Where toilets are open, there will be a number of measures in place to provide a clean and safe environment for people using them. They will be signposted with information on maintaining social distancing, a request to keep cubicles clean and hand washing instructions.
“We will be relying on members of the public to respect the space and to act in a responsible way so that everyone who needs to use the facilities is able to do so as safely as possible.
“The toilets will be cleaned by council staff regularly throughout the day and will be closed while cleaning takes place.
“If members of the public are abusive to our staff, use offensive language or fail to respect the social distancing guidelines when interacting with them, the crew will close the facilities. Being abused by the public isn’t part of the job.
“As well as using the toilets provided, we also want to remind beachgoers that they must take their litter off the beach to a bin, or if the bin is full home. While people were required to stay at home during lockdown, the volume of litter on the beaches was close to zero. It is deeply disappointing that after just a few days of additional freedoms people are dumping rubbish on the beach where it will end up in the sea.
“As always, these are the actions of a small minority of people. We appreciate that the vast majority of our residents and visitors do respect the rules and behave in a way that helps to protect our beautiful coastline.”