Thanet council is proposing to spend £1.25 million on the first phase of improvement works to public toilets across the district.
The investment is the start of an anticipated wider and longer term programme of public toilet improvements which is subject to further funding being secured.
A report setting out proposals for repair and improvement to ten public facilities will be considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Panel on Wednesday 6 December. It will then be considered for approval by the Cabinet on Thursday 14 December.
The report identifies potential for spending to increase to £1.5m subject to a further sum of £250k being approved via external funding.
Surveys have been conducted at each facility by an independent surveyor, Geoff Oliver & Associates Ltd, to gain an understanding of the condition of the district’s 27 council-managed public toilets.
An initial budget of £279k will be used for repairs. Additionally, £571k of capital funding has been identified for new build works where public toilets may be end of life or require a new accessible toilet.
There is also expected to be £650k of additional external funding. This is made up of £250k from Southern Water – if agreed – and £400k from the Margate Town Deal.
The work is to be carried out in phases based on priority need. The list of toilets recommended for initial repair are:
- St Mildred’s Bay, Westgate (£18k)
- West Bay, Westgate (£36k)
- Joss Bay (£21k)
- Broadstairs Harbour (£72k)
- The Centre, Margate (£13k)
- Ramsgate Pier Yard (£39k)
- Viking Bay (chalet block) (£80k)
These priority repairs were determined based on factors including frequency of use, proximity to a landmark or attraction and the need to improve disabled access and baby changing facilities.
The repair work will focus on resolving existing defects and is not a full refurbishment of the toilets.
If approved, the repairs are anticipated to be completed ahead of the 2024 summer season.
Some £82k was also spent earlier this year on a refurb of the Margate Harbour Arm toilets.
In addition to the repair work, a recommendation has been made to build a new toilet block at Stone Bay in Broadstairs, which will include accessible facilities.
It is also proposed to reopen the subterranean toilets located at Margate Main Sands along with the creation of a new accessible toilet at promenade level. New accessible toilets will also be provided at Botany Bay under the plans.
A report to councillors says: “It is recommended that a new toilet block at Stone Bay is built with the £450k capital funding. The new build will provide accessible toilet facilities at Stone Bay, to replace the currently small toilet block which is only accessible via steps. The current toilets are halfway up the cliff, and are at the end of their life.
“In regard to Marine Terrace subterranean toilets located in Margate, the current facility is unsuitable for disabled use under the Equality Act 2010. Thus, a single new build accessible toilet needs to be built at promenade level. This work shall be funded by the Margate Town Deal funding.
“The Council has assigned £400k of this funding to the project. It is envisaged that the accessible toilet will not use up the whole of the funding available and that the existing subterranean toilets can also be repaired with this money.”
Southern Water has discussed the possibility of committing £250k for the refurbishment of Botany Bay toilets. Southern Water has also committed to placing seasonal Portacabin style toilets at the car park end of the bay.
Further funding needed
Works on Minnis Bay, Alpha Road, Station Road, Dumpton Gap, Harold Road, College Walk, Marine Terrace (Buenos Ayres), King George VI Park, Royal Esplanade Ramsgate (Screaming Alley), Cavendish Street, Ramsgate Cemetery, Ramsgate Bathing Station, Victoria Gardens, Hopeville Avenue, Vere Road, Crofts Place have been costed but are subject to future funding being identified.
The toilet review chain of events
In 2019 a review into the future of the isle’s public toilets was announced by TDC as part of a bid to save £175,000 in its 2019-20 budget. A community loo deal with local businesses was one idea suggested although no further action was made public.
A review was then agreed in November 2020 when it was reported by TDC that a total of 27 public toilets were open to the public over the summer season with 13 on or near to Thanet beaches. The review and recommendations were due to be reported back to Cabinet members in March 2021 although this did not take place.
The council’s 2020/21 budget made a proposal to invest in a public toilet refurbishment programme, reversing the plan to make £175,000 in savings. Some of this maintenance got underway in 2021.
A condition survey of the public toilets was commissioned in 2022 which identified that £1.3m of repairs were required, and that of this £1m would need to be spent within the next few years.
A public toilet strategy was earmarked to be discussed at the start of this year and was then scheduled to take place after the May elections.
Consultant AECOM was contracted in October 2023 to conduct an exercise in conjunction with officers to determine what works should be recommended to be taken forward within the confines of the funding available
Councils are not required by law to provide loos and continuing cuts to local authority funding have resulted in public toilets plunging by more than 600 across the country since 2010.