‘Disabled people won’t be able to use shop toilets’
Campaigners say plans to shut public loos are impractical
A disability rights group has warned the council’s plans to close public toilets could have a disastrous impact.
Ashford Borough Council (ABC) had proposed to close both public toilets at the top of New Rents and in the Vicarage Lane car park due to problems with vandalism, crime, drug use, flooding and higher costs.
Councillors and residents raised their concerns and cabinet members made a quick U-turn and announced New Rents would remain open.
But Francoise Montford, leader of the Independence and Access Matters group, based in Aldington, said the loss of toilets at Vicarage Lane is still impractical, awkward and poorly thought out.
She said: “Where is ABC’s rationale behind the removal of any public conveniences?
“Surely we all pay for this service through our council tax and ABC have a duty of care to keep Vicarage Lane public toilets are under threat by council plans them clean, secured and in good working order at all times.
“Not only is one toilet not enough, but bearing in mind the fast growing population of Ashford the alternative proposals are impractical.”
Mrs Montford, a wheelchair user, said disabled people could face a difficulty accessing toilets in shops, which may not be up to the same disabled friendly stand- ards as the public loos.
She added: “These alternatives will be a no-go area for disabled people using large mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs, who may not be able to walk or can only walk a very short distance.
“They will have to drive through rows of tables and chairs to reach the premises’ toilets, which could be awkward or impossible.
“This decision has been made with an obvious lack of awareness of the complex needs of disabled people and we ask ABC to go back to the drawing board.”
Independence and Access Matters is a disability group run and controlled by disabled people, dealing with access issues.
For more information contact the Wheelchair Users’ Group on 01303 226500. Ashford Borough Council’s (ABC) plans for a new community toilet scheme would see shopkeepers and restaurant owners 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