East Devon District Council has extended the closing date for public loos it can’t afford to spend a penny on, and wants to get town and parish councils to take over them.
It will also push for lavatories to become a statutory requirement for councils, which could help it get funding from the government.
In 2021, the council divided its public toilets into three categories: A, B and C.
Category A lavs, of which there are 15, will be refurbished or rebuilt at an estimated cost of £5 million. People will also have to make a contactless card payment of 40p each time they use them.
Category B and C toilets, of which there are 12, have been offered for commercial use, repurposing them into cafes, takeaways or community hubs (but still with access to public loos) and also to town and parish councils to run.
EDDC has had some success commercially, such as new public toilets forming part of plans for a Rockfish restaurant at Port Royal in Sidmouth.
But there has been little progress convincing town and parish councils to take on loos in this category.
EDDC’s cabinet agreed this week to extend the closing date and budgets for category B and C toilets until 31 March 2025 to allow a further year to negotiate with the local smaller councils.
Cllr Ian Barlow (Independent, Sidmouth Town) questioned the new deadline and suggested putting pressure on town and parish councils.
He said: “I just wonder why we are pushing it back another 12 months.
“Unless you put some pressure, nobody will take them because they just think you’re just going to keep pushing the can down the road.
“No one believes you’re actually going to do it. So if we’re going to do it, why aren’t we getting on with it?”
But Cllr Paul Arnott (Lib Dem, Coly Valley) said: “This is a big thing to ask after… half a century of Conservative neglect of our own public toilet stock.
“This is not something where we can bully parish and town councils and say, do this now, or they’re shut next Easter.”
Cllr Paul Hayward (Independent, Axminster) explained how the extended deadline could help councillors explain the situation to town and parish councils.
He said the onus “falls on each and every ward member to have those conversations and go to the parish council meetings, go to the town council meetings and explain to them the reality of the situation, that there is no money.
“Central government has hamstrung each and every local authority. That’s a given. That can’t be changed unless you change the government. Even then that may not change.
“But it needs a conjoined approach between this authority and the town and parishes. So simply this extension is to allow that pressure to be exerted.”
The list of public toilets in categories A, B and C is as follows:
West Street Car Park, Axminster
Cliff Path (West End/Steamer), Budleigh Salterton
East End (Lime Kiln), Budleigh Salterton
Jubilee Gardens, Beer
Foxholes Car Park, Exmouth
Magnolia Centre (London Inn), Exmouth
Manor Gardens, Exmouth
Phear Park, Exmouth
Queens Drive, Exmouth
Lace Walk, Honiton
West Walk, Seaton
Connaught Gardens, Sidmouth
Market Place, Sidmouth
Ham car park (new site), Sidmouth
Categories B and C
Orcombe Point, Exmouth
The Maer, Exmouth
Imperial Road, Exmouth
Jarvis Close, Exmouth
Seaton Hole, Seaton
Harbour Road, Seaton
Marsh Road, Seaton
Brook Road, Budleigh Salterton
Station Road, Budleigh Salterton
Dolphin Street, Colyton
King Street, Honiton
Port Royal, Sidmouth