Spending a penny
13 September 2013
These days, public toilets have become a battleground in the war between convenience and cost-saving.
It's a subject that evokes strong feelings at local level. Newspapers regularly report on communities up in arms over the closure of public toilets and the impact this will have on high streets and tourism. In response, local authorities say they can no longer afford to maintain the facilities.
This is not as trifling a matter as it appears – the closure of public toilets has become linked to the nation's health.
On July 9, The Daily Mail ran a story entitled: "Closure of public toilets 'increases risk of heart attacks and strokes', health experts warn." Dr Clare Walton of the Stroke Association was quoted as saying "not being able to empty your bladder could potentially cause a temporary increase in blood pressure which could put some individuals at risk of stroke".
Raymond Martin, MD of the British Toilet Association, agrees that the closure of public toilets is a "health problem, not just financial one". He added: "These cuts affect the health of the nation, with the elderly and disabled really hit hard. It's a major worry with many people feeling they are becoming prisoners in their own home.”
Four out of ten public toilets have already closed in the past decade. But, for the remaining public toilets whose fates hang in the balance, the growing awareness of the health implications could help to change perceptions that they're expendable in the face of budget cuts.
Of course, while the ever-decreasing quota of the nation's toilets is a serious issue, let's not forget the cities, towns and villages that do recognise the importance of public toilets in the community, and invest in them so that they become a source of pride for the area.
As those who've attended the annual Loo of the Year Awards will testify, public toilets aren't going down the pan just yet.
The closing date for entries for the 2013 Loo of the Year Awards has been extended to 31 August 2013. For more information visit: www.loo.co.uk