What a relief for Edinburgh as council agrees £5 million public toilets plan

A £5 million investment plan to revamp Edinburgh’s public toilets – including gender neutral facilities and contactless payment technology - has been rubber-stamped by councillors.

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Under the plan, the local authority will be relinquishing ownership of the public toilets in Colinton despite a campaign by locals.

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But the funding will see temporary facilities set up at hotspots such as the Meadows and Portobello which have become a magnet for anti-social behaviour, with people relieving themselves outdoors.

Facing permanent closure: Colinton public toilets

At a meeting of the full council on Thursday April 29, councillors approved a report calling on the council to invest in 15 of its current public toilets, and to close the toilets in Colinton, as this facility ‘does not align with proposed plans for future provision’.

The report highlights toilets in the capital that are no longer fit for purpose, and where there are gaps in provision – including at the council’s ‘premier parks’, at high-visitor locations such as Portobello beach and the Pentland Hills, and in Edinburgh’s official town centres.

Furthermore, a previous report in October of last year recommended that the council ‘provides gender neutral toilets which are easy to clean and allow easier management of physical distancing (given that all toilets would be individual contained units) whilst maintaining proper privacy and dignity and are cost effective, and allow charging to be considered, with a contactless entry approach.’

In the longer-term, payment to businesses to open their toilets for general public use will be phased out as provision across the city improves.

It is hoped toilets will but an end to disgusting scenes like this

At the full council meeting, a last ditch attempt to save the Colinton toilets was made by members of the council’s Conservative group and by community leaders.

Representatives from Colinton Community Council, Colinton Amenity Association, The Colinton Tunnel, and Colinton Village Enterprise made their case for retaining the toilets, and Conservative councillors Jo Mowat and Jason Rust proposed an amendment which would have saved the public conveniences.

However, members of the SNP/Labour ruling coalition voted down the amendment, after arguing the Colinton toilets could be transferred into community ownership.

Caught short.. another image of outdoors urination near the Meadows

Speaking after the meeting, Colinton and Fairmilehead councillor Jason Rust said: “I am really concerned about the council opting for the Community Asset Transfer route, despite all of the concerns clearly expressed by local organisations about its feasibility.

“There is no appetite for a Community Asset Transfer locally and the site is essentially not suitable.

“A golden opportunity has been lost to put Colinton back into the council’s strategy and properly safeguard the future of the public convenience.

“The lack of dialogue with the community thus far does not bode well for a Community Asset Transfer.

“I am also very concerned that the actual strategy document has yet to be seen and that the data and information is not current.”

The council will use £450,000 of Covid emergency funding installing temporary public toilets in busy premier parks and other ‘hotspot’ areas.

Environment Convener Lesley Macinnes, said: As the weather gets warmer and we ease out of lockdown our beautiful parks, beaches and other open spaces are going to be busier than ever. I’m really pleased council agreed this funding allowing us to respond so quickly to provide these much needed facilities over the summer months. We’ll publicise the list of temporary public toilets as soon as we have it.”

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