Toilets Flushed Away to Detriment of Public’s Convenience
UPDATE September 6th: Pembrokeshire Tops the Toilets Table
Pembrokeshire’s ‘Public Toilets’ page may be blank, but my attention has been drawn to another page on their website, headed ‘Public Convenience Cleansing‘. This page reports that since August 1st 2014 the maintenance and cleaning of the county’s 73 public toilets has been outsourced to Danfo UK Ltd. Seventy-three is a good number — certainly compared with Carmarthenshire’s 28 — and 52 of them cater for disabled persons. No less than 26 are open 24 hours in summer, and 16 have 24-hour opening throughout the year, again far better than in Carmarthenshire — also a centre for tourism — where only one place, Whitland, is listed as having 24-hour toilets. Whitland is close to the county boundary, so maybe the Pembrokeshire influence has crept over.
Local authorities do not have to provide public toilets. No one has to supply toilets for the public, except I think the operators of motorway services, although businesses need to do so for their employees. Numbers of public toilets are in steep decline: a House of Commons Library note* in 2010 recorded that in England alone in 2000 there were more than 6,600, but in 2005 only 5,084 in England and Wales combined.
Imagine West Wales without any public toilets. After Pont Abraham at the end of the M4 we don’t even have any motorway service areas, as there are no motorways. Elderly folk, and parents with small children, would probably have to stay home a lot more, or gamble on the chance of finding a convenient deserted wood. The Wales Government has made a gesture towards toilets in the Public Health Wales Bill 2015, which requires local authorities to publish a public toilets strategy – but a strategy is not actual provision.
Ceredigion County Council has more toilets than Carmarthenshire but fewer than Pembrokeshire. Ceredigion publishes a list of 39 locations, 14 of which are open 24 hours all year. In addition, 13 businesses in the county have joined in a Wales Government scheme — initially but not now funded by the government – for businesses to make toilets accessible to the public. They range from The Talbot in Tregaron, via Siop y Ffrydiau in Cenarth, to The Guildhall in Cardigan.
As for Pembrokeshire, until alerted to ‘Public Convenience Cleansing’ (see Update, above), I was unable to find any information about public toilets on their website. There is a public toilets page – but it is blank.
In Carmarthenshire, only one of the 28 toilets is listed as open 24 hours, in West Street, Whitland, run by the town council. The county council list says it is free, but according to the town council it costs 20p. Many of the other toilets have restricted opening, so if you are going on a trip, as well as finding out where the toilets are, you also have to investigate the opening hours. No point relying on the facilities in Ammanford’s Co-op car park after 5pm, because that’s when they shut, according to the county council’s list.
Unless you have an amazing memory, it’s probably a good idea to take the list with you. You don’t want to be in need of a toilet in Glanamman after 2pm, or any time at weekends, or in Kidwelly after 5pm, or in Llanddowror between noon on Friday and noon on Monday.
The British Toilet Association points out that a “lack of adequate toilet facilities can also impact on an individual’s physical and mental health, as well as affecting the wider environmental health of the population”, and our ageing population surely requires more toilets than in previous decades. There’s a huge disparity between the modern house with at least two, and often three toilets, and the world outside with hardly any.
I’m glad to say that here in Llansawel — photo above — we do have public toilets, free, in the village hall car park – a boon for people visiting the play park and riverside walk and picnic area. They are signposted, too!
*House of Commons Library Note number SN/SC/976, Public Conveniences, by Louise Smith, 2010