Wigan could be losing out on public toilets

The public toilets on Princess Road in Ashton
The public toilets on Princess Road in Ashton

Council-maintained public toilets in Wigan may have dropped by two-thirds in just eight years.

But town hall officials say there is a raft of conveniences which are owned by the authority but run by community organisations.

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And a national campaign group has recommended that a community toilet scheme should be considered to plug any gaps.

A Freedom of Information Act request has shown that the number of council public toilets in Wigan has dipped from 14 in 2010 to just five by 2018.

While neighbouring West Lancs District Council has kept the six toilets it looked after eight years ago, there have also been decreases in the likes of Bolton, Chorley, Warrington and Salford boroughs.

The finding echoes a national trend, which has seen the volume of local authority managed loos drop by 13 per cent.

Raymond Martin, managing director of the British Toilets Association, said: “There is no legal responsibility for councils to provide public toilets.

“They were provided for many years, up until around 2011, when their budgets were hit and there were a number of closures.”

He says while some opted to scrap the majority of provisions, others sought to transfer them to parish councils or community groups.

Mr Martin says his association, in partnership with the retailer Domestos, was launching a ‘Use it or lose it’ campaign, designed to promote community toilet schemes.

Under such initiatives, shops and community centres are encouraged to throw open their toilet facilities, he said.

“Shops are often very keen to support these schemes, as they generate footfall, and we are looking at creating a map on the back of this.”

Paul Barton, director for environment at Wigan Council, said: “We do provide and maintain a number of public toilets across the borough that are free of charge to access.

“Since 2010, of the nine town centre public toilets directly maintained by the council, three have been closed due to misuse and excessive vandalism.

However, there are more than 25 public toilet sites across the borough that are managed by the council but maintained by other organisations, including local community groups.

“This number includes toilets in our parks and public buildings such as our libraries and sports centres.

“Working closely with the community and partner organisations in this way through The Deal helps us to save money, which allows us to keep council tax low and continue investing in front line services.”

The remaining public toilets maintained by the council are located in Wigan bus station, Leigh bus station, Princess Road in Ashton, Flapper Fold Lane in Atherton and The Square in Tyldesley.

One of the most recent to close was the block in Leigh’s Gas Street car park.