June 18, 2021 3.27 pm This story is over 13 months old

Save our loos: Business petition in row over Lincoln public toilet closures

Business owners report visitors already caught short

A petition has been launched to fully re-open the toilets on Lincoln’s Westgate car park after council leaders announced they would only be opening the facilities for events.

The City of Lincoln Council’s executive will examine the plans later this month, which will also see the Victorian urinals at The Lawn on Union Road and Newport Arch closed permanently, and facilities at Lucy Tower opened for special events only in a bid to save £86,000 per year.

However, Fiona Purkiss of Midas Art in the Bailgate, along with other business owners, said the Westgate facilities need to be open and accessible to all on a daily basis.

Her petition “Save Our Loos – We demand the reopening of Westgate Loos in Lincoln” has received more than 160 signatures in 20 hours.

Fiona said it was good that the disabled facilities would remain accessible, but that the walk to the Castle Square facilities — the closest public toilets to remain open — was too far for some of those without radar keys.

According to Google Maps, the distance between the two facilities is 450-550m depending on whether users go via the castle or the Bailgate.

A screenshot of Google Maps showing two routes people could take from the Westgate toilets to Castle Square. | Image: Google

She said that since the toilets closed at the beginning of the first COVID-19 lockdown, she had already seen people caught short, having to take drastic action or have an accident.

“I have had people come into the shop a bit anxious about needing the toilet. I would not say “no” [to them using my toilet] but it’s not actually suitable for the general public,” she said, adding she also had security concerns due to her own loo being accessed through a stockroom.

“I witnessed three men stood there. They got out of their car, tried the door and shouted back before weeing up against the wall.

“It’s been going for some time, we have had some very embarrassed, middle-aged women arrive who would not make it to Castle Square. They have been forced to wee in a carrier bag or a tissue box they kept in their side door.”

“It’s mortifying for them,” she said.

Fiona Purkiss, of Midas Arts. Photo: Daniel Jaines

She said a suggestion that people use the toilets of pubs and restaurants could leave people feeling uncomfortable if they did not wish to purchase anything while there – particularly during lockdown when patrons are required to queue during busy times, and must have tables pre-booked.

She added that a lack of facilities could put visitors off coming to the city and that it was disruptive to delivery drivers, taxi drivers and others, including parents waiting to pick their children up from Westgate Academy.

The council, however, feels its proposals have been misrepresented by opponents.

It has denied the toilets will be closed permanently – but says that they have been “mothballed”.

Councillor Bob Bushell, Portfolio Holder for Remarkable Place at City of Lincoln Council, said: “The city council welcomes petitions and recognises they are a good way for people to convey their concerns to us.

“However, it is essential that people who are considering signing any petition are presented with the full and correct facts so they can make a judgement on whether to sign or not.

“Following consultation with the public, we are proposing to keep open the disabled toilet and allow the main facilities to be available during events such as Lincoln Christmas Market.

“At other times, alternative facilities are available on Castle Square, a short five minute walk away.”

“We have also never suggested that people use toilets in cafes and bars to supplement our provision, we have merely highlighted that paying customers have these facilities at their disposal and should use them if needed.

He said the proposals would also keep the toilets open at Tentercroft St and the bus station.

“Add to this the upcoming refurbishment of toilets at the Central Market and we feel there is a significant spread of facilities across the city, uphill and in the city centre, to serve the needs of shoppers and tourists alike.”