Lamlash rallies to save loos
People power comes to the fore in securing toilet facilities
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.