Residents have banded together to protest against plans to close Cardiff’s historic underground public toilet.
The decision to close the toilets in The Hayes has outraged many who say that Cardiff council is prioritising financial savings over the public’s comfort. Opened in 1898, they underwent a £148,000 restoration three years ago.
But the Grade II-listed Victorian underground loos – which won a five-star rating at the 2010 National Loo Awards – now face closure as the council looks to save £120,000 a year.
John Vincent, of the Welsh Senate of Older People, was one of those behind yesterday’s P Is For People protest and said the June 30 closure will not just hit the elderly community but also those with medical conditions, disabilities and families with young children.
He said: “We know that local authorities have financial woes but where do their priorities lie? This is going to affect an awful lot of people.”
Sheila Robins, 76, from Caerphilly, has ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease that can require several trips to the toilet every hour, and she said her unpredictable condition could make it even more difficult for her to venture into the city centre without the convenient rest stop.
“I want to be active and have an absolutely normal life. And I want to know exactly where the toilets are before I go anywhere. It’s my first priority – going out is a question of planning,” she said.
Mr Vincent said the closure could isolate the elderly community by making them worry about travelling into town without nearby toilets, and said many would happily pay a charge in order to use facilities.
Mum-of-three Helen Howell said a lack of toilets could also spell problems for parents when their young children are desperate for the toilet.
The 48-year-old from Cowbridge said: “Where do you go to the toilet – upstairs right at the back of Howells?
“There’s not as many toilets as there used to be and this one everybody knows.”
The Hayes restrooms see frequent use, with their steps well worn.
One protester yesterday counted 27 toilet users in just five minutes.
Rob Blundell, from Trust PA, a charity that helps people with spinal injuries, said: “Public toilets are vital for disabled people; it’s a basic human need and the capital should have public toilets. And it’s not just people who live here, the city gets a lot of tourists who don’t know the area; they need facilities that are visible.”
Cardiff council said the steep steps to the Hayes facilities make it less than ideal for the elderly and there are a number of other toilets in the area.
The council is also working a Community Toilet Scheme that will involve pubs, restaurants and cafes making their facilities available to the public.
Talking about the closure decision, a council spokesperson said: “The budget was set against a backdrop of severe financial pressures and steep cuts from the UK Government meaning some difficult decisions were taken to ensure that frontline services were protected.”