‘Closing toilets would create no-go zone for the elderly’
A retired groundsman has criticised a council plan to close a public toilet, saying it will make Ashford town centre a no-go zone for the elderly.
Ashford Borough Council had proposed to close both public toilets at the top of New Rents and in the Vicarage Lane car park.
Problems with vandalism, crime, drug use and higher costs to repair plumbing and flooding were cited as the main reasons why the council would close its toilets.
Then following concerns raised by councillors and residents, cabinet members performed a U-turn and announced that New Rents toilets will be kept open.
But for 80-year-old George Galdies the loss of the toilets at Vicarage Lane could leave him unable to get around the town centre.
The former Victoria Park council groundsman said medication for his heart condition leaves him needing to use the toilet without warning.
He said: “My condition means that when I have to go, I have to go. I can’t walk all the way across town to get to New Rents.
“If I need the toilet I don’t want to be left having to pee my trousers. I go to the Vicarage Lane car park because it is right there if I need to go.
“When I first moved to the town in 1962 there were more toilets, but now we don’t have any. They still get all the council tax we pay, but since it was privatised the workmanship has gone to hell.”
A report by the council’s environmental contracts and operations manager Tracey Butler acknowledged that elderly people often feel put off from using toilets in private businesses because they don’t want to be pressured into buying something.
But the council has instead proposed a new community toilet scheme where shopkeepers and restaurant owners can open up their loos to the shoppers, residents and visitors.
Businesses participating could receive up to £1,000 per year if they provide facilities in busy areas. The council would also pay £900 per year for facilities which provide separate toilets and baby changing areas, £800 for separate toilets and disabled loos, or £700 for male and female toilets.
Participating businesses would display a sign in a window to indicate if the public can use the loos for free, and extend the opening hours well beyond 5pm each day. To view the proposals for toilet facilities visit www.ashford.gov.uk
George Galdies is angry at proposals to shut the Vicarage Lane public loos