Closing toilet blocks would be a step backwards

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The English may be prone to toilet humour, but a look at the number of letters written to The News since the money-saving suggestion was made to close some of Portsmouth’s toilets shows that for many people there is nothing funny about the subject at all.

Our postbag (and email inbox) has had many letters sent in complaining about the plan, and claiming that if it is seen through it will put people off visiting the city, and in particular the seafront.

And we have to admit to reservations about the scheme too.

Compared to many other cities, Portsmouth – and particularly the seafront – does have a large number of toilet blocks.

But that’s how it should be – we should be trying to make the area as welcoming and accessible as possible, and providing public facilities is one of the ways that this is done.

If visitors think that they will be faced by boarded-up blocks, or by a machine demanding money when nature calls, they will be put off from visiting the beach on a sunny day. Not everyone will be, obviously, but a significant number will be deterred.

Today, Cllr Eleanor Scott, who is admirably frank about the difficult situation the city council is faced with, says that there is a possibility that the council could see whether previously private toilets could be opened up to the wider public, in shops or pubs, say.

This is to be applauded, but we would go further and say that we would rather see this scheme up and running, and then the council-maintained toilets cut back, than the other way round.

We sympathise with the council’s position, and we know that it doesn’t want to make cuts for the sake of cuts.

At the same time we also hope that, as often happens at this time of year, this suggestion is the worst-case scenario being floated that councillors will then retreat from in a bid to present cutbacks as good news.

But we reiterate that we would guard against reducing the number of amenities in the city. We still hope to see a regenerated pier and a rejuvenated seafront, and anything that works against this is to be fought against.