Lack of Loos – A Rant
What has happened to the highways and byways of our country? There are no public toilets to be found. Anywhere.
One of the – very few – good things about motorway travel is that there are service stations approximately every 20 miles. These have car parks, cafes and restaurants of varying degrees of ghastliness, shops selling rubbish trinkets at vastly inflated prices and last but not least, they have public toilets. Almost always these are sufficient for the number of customers, clean and free of charge.
So if you travel by motorway you are OK. But the main roads, the A and B roads are not so well served. (I say nothing of the C or unclassified roads – once you get away from a town or suburb it’s a case of finding a field or hedge to use.)
I kid you not. The A6 between Lancaster and Preston has not one public toilet anywhere along its length. If you should want to do anything as unnatural as go for a pee you need to detour via the town of Garstang or the village of Scorton. Of course a visitor from outside the area won’t know that toilet facilities are available in these places slightly off the main road.
I must admit it is even more of a problem if you are one of those really odd people who travel by bike. It takes you longer to get from one town to the next and you are therefore more likely to need a loo en route.
It baffles me. When I was growing up. admittedly many years ago now, there were a couple of parks within easy walking distance of home and each had toilets provided as a matter of course. Those were the days when you “spent a penny” – the toilets had a slot machine on the door, you inserted a penny and then you could get in. As far as I know there was no major problem with vandalism. One thing that did nark was the ladies’ loos were charged for but not the gents’. I never found out why.
In a public park on the way into Preston there is a building that used to be a public toilet but now it is boarded up and nothing more than an eyesore. No, I am wrong , it is worse than an eyesore because it can fool people into thinking it is still a public loo. They haven’t got any signs to indicate it is no longer in use until you get right up to the locked door. Why the building can’t be demolished I don’t know. It’s never going to be refurbished so why not knock it down?
Then when you get into Preston itself one of the parks has its only loos inside a cafe area. Sorry, there is another one, but it is another of the shut up apparently derelict loos that seems to be such a feature of Preston. Having toilets inside the cafe building is fine, as long as no one expects to want to use them before the cafe opens or after it is shut.
I’ve noticed this often when we’ve been on holiday, particularly touring holidays by bike. Lots of places close the toilets at sunset. In winter this can be as early as 3 pm. Is no-one expected to need a loo from mid-afternoon onwards?
I think local government regulations are to blame: all sort of local authorities, parish councils, town councils, district and county councils are allowed to provide public toilets for the use of residents and visitors but none of them are required to do so. With cuts to local government spending from central government it’s not really surprising that any spending that isn’t obligatory is chopped. It occurs to me that not only local government, but any public-minded individual could provide toilets for the use of visitors. OK they would have to make some arrangement for the maintenance and cleaning of the building, but that shouldn’t be impossible. We see lots of seats and some shelters put up in memory of some loved one who has died. Why not dedicate a loo instead? They are a necessity in many country and especially many suburban areas. Why not have a sign saying “This toilet is placed here in memory of Mrs X who got pissed off when peeing behind a hedge and wants those who come after her to have a suitable comfort station.”
One of my good idea that I won’t see happening in my lifetime – alas!
In a tourist area like ours I can’t think of a better way to drive people away than to deny them the basic comfort of a toilet and somewhere to wash after a long journey.
Go only a little further north to Scotland and the difference is immediately obvious. Most towns have a reasonable public toilet provision. True, the loos are charged for. But they are clean and often have attendants to collect the fee – about 20p the last time I was in Scotland, probably more like 50p now. I remember there was one town where the charge was waived for children and OAPs. Compare this with a sign I saw on a cafe in Preston “our toilets are locked and only opened for customers”. Would anyone really walk into a cafe, make straight for the toilet and then leave without buying as much as a biscuit? I doubt it.