Pub­lic loos clo­sure put off so talks can be­gin

Own­er­ship­could­trans­fer

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - LOCALNEWS - BY ALIS­TAIR MUNRO

Cash-strapped High­land Coun­cil has bowed to pub­lic pres­sure and de­layed plans to close 29 ru­ral toi­lets – aimed at mak­ing an­nual sav­ings £338,000 a year.

The move comes af­ter cam­paign­ers from com­mu­nity coun­cils along the North Coast 500 route amassed 4,000 sig­na­tures, calling on the de­ci­sion to be scrapped.

Coun­cil­lors Alister MacK­in­non and Al­lan Hen­der­son, on be­half of the High­land Coun­cil’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, said: “In view of se­ri­ous com­mu­nity pro­pos­als com­ing for­ward and be­ing as­sessed, by groups such as North Coast 500 and oth­ers across the High­lands, through the Ru­ral Tourism In­fra­struc­ture Fund, it is pru­dent to al­low ex­tra time for the re­view.

“The re­view will be ex­tended to Oc­to­ber 31, to en­sure we have a sus­tain­able net­work of toi­lets across the High­lands. The ad­min­is­tra­tion are also look­ing at ways of creat­ing a coun­cil loan fund to help com­mu­ni­ties with con­ver­sion to com­mu­nity own­er­ship.”

Ini­tially plans to close the pub­lic loos had been sched­uled to take place in Au­gust with yes­ter­day’s an­nounce­ment re­sult­ing in a two-month ex­ten­sion for a so­lu­tion to be found.

Pub­lic toi­lets will close un­less com­mu­nity groups take over own­er­ship from the lo­cal au­thor­ity.

Gra­ham Wild, chair­man o f K in lochberv ie Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, said: “We are pleased this has been ex­tended. We are meet­ing with of­fi­cials from the High­land Coun­cil next Tues­day at our pub­lic meet­ing, where we hope to make more progress.”

Scot­tish Labour MEP Cather­ine Stih­ler said: “This is a wel­come move by the coun­cil and I hope the clo­sure plans will now be scrapped. Com­mu­ni­ties have made their strength of feel­ing known, and coun­cil­lors must lis­ten to lo­cal res­i­dents. I wrote to High­land Coun­cil calling for this short- sighted de­ci­sion to be re­versed af­ter vis­it­ing Ach­melvich at Easter.

“With the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the North Coast 500 there is an in­creas­ing num­ber of tourists to the High­lands who re­quire ac­cess to toi­lets along the route. I know there are huge cash pres­sures on lo­cal coun­cils across Scot­land, but cut­ting this vi­tal pub­lic ser­vice is not the so­lu­tion.”

A pub­lic meet­ing is to be held on Tues­day at the Kin­lochbervie Vil­lage Hall with all three ward coun­cil­lors for the North, West and Cen­tral Suther­land be­ing joined by Andy Sum­mers, head of en­vi­ron­men­tal and amenity ser­vices and Deb­bie Sutton, ameni­ties man­ager, both of the High­land Coun­cil.

SUP­PORT: Gra­ham Wild and Margaret Meek of Kin­lochbervie Com­mu­nity Coun­cil

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