Argument for public toilet charging is unconvincing

Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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At least anecdotally, the first swathe of the great toilet closure in Portsmouth has had disappointing, if predictable results.

The decision has been made to shut almost half of the public conveniences across the city, and to charge for those outside Clarence Pier. If this is deemed a success, the charging system could also be brought in at the blocks near the D-Day Museum.

It was only a small straw poll of people, but it would be fair to say that the opinions on our page 7 story are representative of the wider public – while some do point out that charging for services can bring increased levels of cleanliness, the main word that appears to have been on people’s lips was ‘disgraceful’.

This has been the attitude of most correspondents to our letters page – many pointing out that a city that styles itself as a tourist destination should be able to offer certain basic facilities to tourists, let alone residents who pay taxes.

Sadly, the closures and charges have also led to a rash of reports of people being spotted relieving themselves in bushes, and in one case, up the side of the D-Day Museum itself.

And as well as this, as the picture on page 7 shows, the gates to the Clarence Pier toilets are hardly the sturdiest ever – no wonder that people can sneak through or vault over the barriers and avoid the charge.

So we agree with John Ferrett, a Labour councillor who points out that the system may need to be policed and that this could bring extra charges.

While we do not necessarily concur that knocking down the Pyramids Centre is the answer, the scheme as a whole is not convincing.

Before the closures came into effect the council promised a scheme whereby businesses would be encouraged to open up their premises to the public, but few came forward, and this seems to have been quietly dropped.

So now we have an imperfect partial charging system, an unhappy public and not much coherence. Even if you find a public toilet that’s open, it’s not much relief.