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Doubts cast on plan for public toilet charges in Lichfield and Burntwood

Plans to introduce charges for public toilets across Lichfield and Burntwood will not bring in as much money as previously thought, a new report has revealed.

Lichfield District Council had planned to begin making people pay 20p to spend a penny.

Lichfield District Council's offices. Pic: Lichfield District Council

Lichfield District Council’s offices. Pic: Lichfield District Council

But a report to an overview and scrutiny meeting has now said that the predicted usage may be double the real figure and has cast doubt on the proposal.

The use of public toilets had been measured by a light beam which registered every time someone walked through.

“During the autumn, the way that the counters operate was reviewed and there were sufficient doubts as to their accuracy so the counter in each toilet block was calibrated by a 3-hour visual check,” the report said.

“Doubts arose because the positioning of the light beam counters is such that a user of the toilets may break the beam on more than one occasion whilst using the facility.

“It can be concluded that the counters are over-reporting user numbers by a factor of almost two. In consequence, the original user numbers must be halved to get closer to a more accurate assessment of users.”

The new three-hour checks revealed that:

  • Sankeys Corner toilets – 20 users instead of a predicted 52.
  • Dam Street toilets – 114 users instead of a predicted 281.
  • Lichfield Bus Station toilets – 109 users instead of a predicted 135.
  • Swan Island toilets – 3 users (no prediction).
  • Bird Street toilets – 20 users instead of a predicted 30.
  • Chasetown High Street toilets – 3 users instead of a predicted 4.

The results cast doubt on the local authority’s suggestion that charging for the use of public toilets could generate an addition £38,000 a year – with the installation of charging mechanisms costing £28,000.

And the report revealed that the council is now examining plans to re-assess the viability of some of its sites.

Among the ideas include handing over the Chasetown public toilets to a local bowls club to allow the creation of a new club hose and the closure and sale of the Swan Island site.

Another proposal would see the introduction of a ‘Community Public Toilets Scheme’.

“This allows members of the public to use the toilet facilities in a range of approved local businesses and other organisations during their opening hours,” the report explained.

“This service is made available for free and without any expectation that users will purchase goods or services from the business.

“Participating premises undertake to keep their toilets safe, clean, hygienic, easily accessible, and well-stocked. In return, they receive an annual payment.

“Such schemes are common throughout the country. They are popular with users because it increases the number of facilities available and for participating organisations it helps increase footfall to their premises.”

The future of public toilets across Lichfield and Burntwood will be discussed at the meeting on Wednesday (March 5).

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.