Southwark Council invited campaigners to deliberate on the public toilet provision plans to enhance public health and boost the local economy in the meeting of the Health and Social Care Scrutiny Commission on 15th.
The Campaigns Manager of Age UK, John McGeachy and other campaigners of Loos for Southwark were invited to report to the commission on the increasingly urgent need to install more public toilets in the borough.
Their major appeals for the public toilet campaign are developing a coordinated scheme joined by diverse council departments and improving communications with potential public toilet users by providing street signs or printed maps in town centres.
“While there has already been public toilet service in the Southwark Park, the majority of the borough areas are ‘Loos deserts’.” McGeachy said. He emphasised the benefits of providing residents with more public toilets, including enhancing overall public health and supporting the local economy.
McGeachy further explained, public toilets can tackle social isolation for the elderly and make our communities more inclusive, which is one of the preventative measures that should be undertaken to reduce health risks. He added that public toilets encourage residents and visitors to stay longer in the commercial centres and spend more money to stimulate the local economy.
Local Campaigner, Eileen Conn shared her experience living in Peckham for 50 years without proper public toilet service. She said: “There is no public toilet in the town centre; people have no other options but to go to the Loos in the street.”
The Peckham toilets petition of 2013 collected over 4,000 signatures from residents who requested public toilets from Southwark Council and Network Rail as part of the redevelopment plan around historic Peckham Rye station. “While we got planning permission for redevelopment, nothing happened since ten years ago.” Conn stated.
Residents were unaware of the council’s current toilets plans because there were no public discussions regarding its designs and management. Conn appealed Councillor Esme Dobson to widely gather local opinions before establishing new schemes with meaningful resident participation in the decision.
McGeachy shared that Lewisham Council is one of the key community partners of the campaign, which has successfully improved public toilet provision by holding Loos competitions and engaging with local businesses. Councillor Sandra Rhule then suggested that Southwark should learn from Lewisham by making an informative toilet map like the one displayed in Lewisham Library and persuade more business owners to open their Loos to urgent users.