U-turn over closure of toilets at Barton and Calshot, with £9k Covid revamp revealed
PUBLIC toilets at Barton and Calshot are set to stay open for now after a controversial plan to keep them closed was flushed away.
Up to £9,000 worth of changes will be made to the loos and opposition Liberal Democrat councillors hailed the toilet U-Turn by the Tories that rule New Forest District Council – adding the spending of pennies had ensured residents could do the same.
“This is wonderful news for Calshot and shows the power of public opinion,” Cllr Rebecca Clark said, pledging the party would continue to hold the Conservative administration to account.
They were originally shut when the first lockdown was imposed in 2020, and a recent NFDC report had suggested they were “unviable” and should be demolished.
But opposition petitions emerged; more than 4,000 local people signed one opposing the Calshot closure, and over 2,700 added their names to another against the Barton plans.
Tory backbencher Cllr Alexis McEvoy also publicly spoke out against the Calshot plan.
Beach hut owners at Barton claimed visitors had been seen “urinating and worse” at the beauty spot because the toilets were shut, adding human excrement and baby wipes, soiled nappies and used tampons were being left among rocks on the shore.
They further argued older residents struggled to make the toilets on the clifftop.
Today (Thursday), a New Forest District Council spokesperson confirmed the ditching of the toilet closure plan, adding it was based on “public concern, and the views of ward members, alongside wider public health considerations”.
She continued: “We reassessed the buildings and looked at what work would need to be done to get them to the acceptable standard, and are pleased to say that the Barton [toilets] will be open by Easter and Calshot by the week beginning 12th April
“A big focus to get them to Covid-safe standards is on natural ventilation so one of the changes we will make is to install more air bricks in these public toilets.
“We are reconfiguring the toilets within each block so that social distancing is possible and capacity is maintained at what is required. We will also be locking open the external doors when the toilets are open or to aid ventilation.”
She added: “There will also be signs and information so people know how to use the toilets in a Covid-safe way. There are already adequate hand-washing facilities.”
Also pleased at the news was Lib Dem Campaigner for New Milton, Ben Thompson. “I know that some Conservative councillors will claim credit for this decision but it’s clear that, had there not been such an outpouring of public anger, the decision taken would have been a different one.
“In the end the right decision has been made for the people of Barton. The council have agreed to spend a penny so that local people can also spend a penny,” he said. “Now local campaigners will fight to make sure the toilets are renovated and stay open long into the future.”