‘Clos­ing toi­lets would cre­ate no-go zone for the el­derly’

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Race For Life - By Ai­dan Bar­low

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

Pic­ture: Gary Browne FM435419

Ge­orge Galdies is an­gry at pro­pos­als to shut the Vicarage Lane pub­lic loos

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