Portsmouth arts cafe hands council £90,000 public toilet maintenance bill

A COMMUNITY arts cafe facing closure has handed Portsmouth City Council a bill for £90,000 towards the upkeep of its toilets.

Friday, 23rd September 2016, 6:01 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 1:44 pm
Victoria Park in Portsmouth Picture: Paul Jacobs (160260-2c)

Victoria Park’s Arts Lodge & Park Cafe has given the authority five days to meet the demand, which it has put together in an invoice.

The Lodge argues that as it provides the only public toilet in the park, it’s high time the council shoulders the burden and coughs up towards the cost of maintaining the facility.

But the leader of the council, Cllr Donna Jones, says the authority won’t be footing the bill. And she described Mr Lewis’ request as a ‘publicity stunt’ in his campaign to protect the centre, which is seen as a key meeting place for Portsmouth’s cultural scene.

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Mark Lewis, founder of The Arts Lodge Picture: Sarah Standing (161256-6300)

Cllr Jones’ administration gave Mr Lewis eight months’ notice to leave the premises in June, as the authority wants to use it to help adults with learning disabilities get back into work. In a letter to Cllr Jones, Mr Lewis said: ‘We are presenting this invoice for services rendered facilitating the only public toilet in Victoria Park for the last six years.

‘We are sure you agree that going to the lavatory when needed is a basic necessity but also a basic right in a popular city centre park.

‘Since the public toilets were sold off to the university back in 2010, we have been burdened with what the council should provide. Even after six years of us requesting for you to display at least one sign in the park directing people to the nearest public toilets in the Guildhall or Cascades this still has not happened.’

Cllr Jones said: ‘Mr Lewis has no contract with the council regards toilet provision.

Mark Lewis, founder of The Arts Lodge Picture: Sarah Standing (161256-6300)

‘His customers use his toilet and anyone else he chooses to allow to use his facilities are at his own discretion.

‘I would like to reassure the public there is no basis to the claim Mr Lewis has submitted of £90,000 for the use of his toilet. The council will not be paying Mr Lewis or his privately owned company money.

‘The invoice received by my office was nothing more than a publicity stunt as part of Mr Lewis’ ongoing campaign against the council following the notice we have served him as landlord to invoke a break clause in his tenancy of The Lodge in Victoria Park.’