Lam­lash ral­lies to save loos

Peo­ple power comes to the fore in se­cur­ing toi­let fa­cil­i­ties

The Arran Banner - - Front Page - Colin Smee­ton ed­i­tor@ar­ran­ban­

Com­mu­nity sup­port to re­tain the toi­lets at Lam­lash has re­ceived a wel­come boost at a pub­lic meet­ing in Lam­lash where more than 60 peo­ple gath­ered to pledge their sup­port to re­in­state the shut fa­cil­i­ties.

The pub­lic meet­ing, which also in­cluded dis­cus­sions about re­tain­ing three swing parks ear­marked for clo­sure by North Ayr­shire Coun­cil, laid the foun­da­tions for a com­mu­nity ini­tia­tive look­ing to gauge the pub­lic in­ter­est and vol­un­teer avail­abil­ity of res­i­dents in order to cre­ate a com­mit­tee ded­i­cated to res­ur­rect­ing and main­tain­ing the fa­cil­i­ties un­der pub­lic own­er­ship.

Chaired by Hi­lary Stubbs of the Lam­lash Im­prove- ments As­so­ci­a­tion, (LIA) along with Ti­mothy Billings, Daniel Bowles and Kirsty Forsyth, the panel also in­cluded Bill Calder­wood of Ar­ran Com­mu­nity Coun­cil and John Macdon­ald from the North Ayr­shire Coun­cil devel­op­ment team.

Mr Calder­wood, who has been the driv­ing force in re­open­ing the Brod­ick toi­lets, along with oth­ers from Brod­ick Im­prove­ments Com­mit­tee, opened the dis­cus­sions by pro­vid­ing back­ground in­for­ma­tion into the toi­let sit­u­a­tion af­ter they were closed in late March this year due to coun­cil bud­get cuts.

Pro­vid­ing at­ten­dees with the coun­cil’s po­si­tion on cut­ting the fa­cil­i­ties across Ar­ran, Mr Calder­wood ex­plained that the clo­sure of the toi­lets was ow­ing to a cost cut­ting mea­sure, and as such would re­ceive no fur­ther fund­ing from the coun­cil to­wards their up­keep. A small, one-off grant would be the only con­tri­bu­tion avail­able which equated to the cost of the would-be de­mo­li­tion if they were not adopted by any com­mu­nity group. And while Mr Calder­wood was keen to stress that equal con­sid­er­a­tion and treat­ment by the coun­cil to­wards all vil­lages was be­ing strictly ob­served, the funds var­ied from vil­lage to vil­lage ow­ing to the na­ture of the build­ings and the as­so­ci­ated po­ten­tial de­mo­li­tion costs.

This sen­ti­ment was fol­lowed up by LIA chair­man Ti­mothy Billings who pro­vided the au­di­ence with a

break­down of the as­so­ci­a­tion’s po­si­tion to­wards the pub­lic con­ve­niences. The as­so­ci­a­tion would be will­ing to take on the toi­lets, pro­vided a sub-com­mit­tee could be formed; one that could en­sure the sus­tain­abil­ity and self-fi­nanc­ing of the fa­cil­i­ties. Driv­ing home the point, Mr Billings laid bare the fi­nances of the as­so­ci­a­tion, ex­plain­ing that they broke even ev­ery year but that they were en­thu­si­as­tic about driv­ing for­ward any ven­ture, be it through them­selves or an­other or­gan­i­sa­tion, to en­sure that the fa­cil­i­ties are re-opened for vil­lagers and vis­i­tors to Lam­lash.

Mrs Stubbs then pro­vided the au­di­ence with var­i­ous frame­works and op­tions for how a com­mit­tee could be structured and the con­sid­er­a­tions to take into ac­count in the run­ning of a toi­let com­mit­tee.

Hav­ing to de­cide on open­ing hours, clean­ing costs, fund­ing, pub­lic li­a­bil­ity in­surance and most cru­cially fi­nanc­ing, Mrs Stubbs ex­plained that with the full­ness of time a com­pany would need to be cre­ated, or char­ity sta­tus at­tained, which would then al­low for grants to be se­cured with favourable rates and ad­di­tional bar­gain­ing power.

The dis­cus­sion was then moved to the au­di­ence with the panel re­quest­ing com­ments and sug­ges­tions from the at­tend­ing au­di­ence which swung the con­ver­sa­tion back to the play parks.

In par­tic­u­lar the ques­tion of the as­so­ci­ated costs in main­te­nance and up­keep were brought into ques­tion when the le­gal obli­ga­tions of health and safety checks were ques­tioned by a mem­ber of the au­di­ence, who of­fered to check them him­self to re­duce travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion costs of vis­it­ing of­fi­cials. A dis­con­tented mur­mur arose from the au­di­ence when a res­i­dent, who has lived op­po­site the play park for more than 30 years, com­mented that she had never seen an of­fi­cial in­spect­ing the fa­cil­i­ties which, she said, had been vis­ited by gen­er­a­tions of the same fam­ily.

Re­turn­ing to the is­sue of the toi­lets, var­i­ous mem­bers of the au­di­ence, through ask­ing ques­tions or voic­ing their opin­ions, vol­un­teered their busi­nesses, skills and time in help­ing with the ini­tial stages of res­ur­rect­ing the toi­lets.

These in­cluded paint­ing and dec­o­rat­ing, plumb­ing and elec­tri­cal as well as clean­ers who men­tioned a clean­ing rota in order to en­sure that the fa­cil­i­ties were al­ways kept in pris­tine con­di­tion. Cit­ing a sim­i­lar fa­cil­ity in Cum­brae which un­der­went the same threats of clo­sure, the toi­lets re­cently gained me­dia at­ten­tion for be­ing su­pe­rior in clean­li­ness and in what it of­fered un­der com­mu­nity own­er­ship than when it was run by the coun­cil.

The meet­ing drew to a close with all at­ten­dees filling in a form pledg­ing what they would be will­ing to do in es­tab­lish­ing and main­tain­ing and se­cur­ing the fu­ture of the pub­lic con­ve­nience. Af­ter the meet­ing Mr Calder­wood said: ‘It is en­cour­ag­ing to see the LIA com­mit­tee be­ing sup­ported so well. This is a fur­ther ex­am­ple of Ar­ran’s strong com­mu­nity will­ing­ness to pro­tect and de­velop the is­land’s ba­sic ser­vices and in­fra­struc­ture.’ The LIA will now col­late the data col­lected from all of the vol­un­teer con­tri­bu­tions which will de­ter­mine its fu­ture plans and com­mit­tee vol­un­teers who po­ten­tially will over­see the Lam­lash toi­lets be­ing res­ur­rected un­der com­mu­nity own­er­ship af­ter the huge show of sup­port from the Lam­lash com­mu­nity.

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