Legal expert throws out Portsmouth community cafe's £90,000 toilet invoice

A LEGAL expert working for Portsmouth City Council has slammed the door shut on a community cafe's demands for £90,000 towards the upkeep of its toilets.

Tuesday, 11th October 2016, 6:02 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 6:45 pm
The Arts Lodge & Park Cafe in Victoria Park

The Arts Lodge & Park Cafe filed an invoice to the local authority demanding the money to cover the cost of providing Victoria Park’s only public loo.

But the cafe’s tenant has now been told formally his request has ‘no merit’ – as he has never been forced to allow people who aren’t paying customers to use the facilities.

It comes ahead of a rally that Arts Lodge campaigners are staging today calling on the council to reverse its decision to kick out the cafe’s current tenants.

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Operator Mark Lewis was handed an eight-month notice to leave in June as the council wants to turn the cafe into a centre helping adults with disabilities get back into work.

Council solicitor Jade Snoxell’s response said: ‘The invoice is not accepted and will not be paid.

‘The council placed no obligation upon you to provide toileting services to visitors of the park. Any services provided were and are of your own volition and you must therefore accept the burden of paying for the same.

‘As you have accepted in your correspondence, there are adequate public toilet facilities in the vicinity, both in Cascades Shopping Centre and in the Guildhall, therefore there is no requirement for the cafe to provide such services and the council has not requested that you do so.’

Ms Snoxall added the invoice was ‘wholly unsupported’ and ‘has no merit’.

But in response, Mr Lewis said: ‘The council has refused to put signs up directing people to the nearest toilets for six years now, knowing everyone who uses the park naturally gravitates towards the only open building.

‘Most busy hot days in the summer even our staff can not get to use our one toilet as there are queues out of the hall and gallery blocking our entrance and exit to the kitchen too.’

‘We have even asked them in a full council meeting to erect signage and they agreed, which is all logged and recorded so they have breached their word and duty since then, so this invoice is legally binding.’