The leader of Lincoln council has admitted that if he wasn’t a member of the authority, he would be on the picket line with campaigners, as a petition to save Lincoln’s Westgate toilets is handed in.
Bailgate business owner Fiona Purkiss presented the 1,463-signature Save Our Loos petition to the authority’s full council meeting on Tuesday night.
The City of Lincoln Council hopes to save around £86,000 a year by closing public toilets around the city, however, campaigners say they are a valuable part of the high street.
Fiona, who has organised two protests against the closures, told councillors on Tuesday: “I do not think this is a political issue, it is a basic human right that we are having taken away from us fast by your decision to half the number of loos uphill.
“We are not a third world country we are a vibrant, growing city. So I beg you to stop this and just reopen the loos for local residents, visitors, and the business community.
“COVID has been really tough for us all, and now we are starting to recover our own council is trying to chop us off at the knees.”
Under the proposals:
- The authority will close the Victorian urinals at The Lawn, on Union Road and at Newport Arch
- Facilities at Lucy Tower and South Park will open for special events only
- Westgate car park’s toilets will only allow access via radar key, and during special events such as the Christmas Market
- The bus station facilities along with toilets on Tentercroft Street, Castle Square, Hartsholme Country Park and Boultham will remain open
- Sincil Street’s ladies toilet will be replaced with a new “modern, unisex” facility within plans to refurbish the Cornhill Market approved last week
Council leader Ric Metcalfe said he had “every sympathy” with petitioners and understood the “widespread concern”.
He said “good quality, accessible” toilets should be provided by the council as an “absolute basic service”.
Councillor Metcalfe said: “If I were not a member of this council, I’m sure my own signature, along with other members of this council, would be on this petition and I’m sure we would have been out there with our placards as well.”
However, he said there was “no magic wand just as there was never a magic money tree”.
He added: “I along with my colleagues have a solemn and legal duty to make sure the council’s books are balanced.”
He repeated that the council’s finances were still dire, with the authority facing cuts to services across the board.
“The city council has been forced to reduce spending by £8million since 2010… and we still have £1.75m to find over the next two years,” he said.
He moved to reassure residents that “most of our toilets will remain open”.
The petition was accepted but not acted on.
A scrutiny committee is due to examine the proposals for the city as a whole in detail tonight (Wednesday).