… Oxford Street

April 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm 1 comment

There are new public toilets planned for Oxford Street!


Or is it?

Public toilet blocks don’t get built that often nowadays, but this is different. They’re not really ‘new’ but a replacement, because the last set of public toilets on London’s busiest shopping street were filled in with concrete.

You see there was a set of public toilets underneath Oxford Circus. Access was via a set of steps on a pedestrian traffic island in the middle of the crossing with Regent Street (with men’s and women’s on the opposite sides of the junction).

There was never anyone in them (well, not in the Ladies…). I always thought that this was because of their awful location; maybe no one noticed that they were there?!

Inside they were alright, much like most of Westminster Council’s toilets, as they’d been refurbished in 2005 for £300 000. When I visited the toilets in 2006 and took photos, as-you-do, there was also a plant. I liked that.

Plant at Oxford Circus loos in 2006; presumed dead.

But the toilets drew the short end of the straw when Westminster Council and others built the awesome diagonal crossing at Oxford Circus. As part of the deal it was decided that they’d have to fill-in the toilets but that they would build some new toilets elsewhere.

And so here we are!

The new toilets will be at the Oxford Street end of Old Cavendish Street, between John Lewis and House of Fraser.

Site of new toilets. John Lewis on left. Looking towards Oxford Street.

Now I don’t wish to be negative (though I am) but I’m not convinced by this plan.

The proposal is a single-storey building with a cafe and information point at the front and public toilets at the back.

That’s good. They’re adding value to a toilet building by incorporating business space that can be rented out, helping to pay for the facility.

Also staff might be on hand to attend to any problems in the public toilets (though I’ve no evidence to say that this is part of the proposal).

They’ve also provided 2 family toilets and one wheelchair accessible toilet. so they’re providing for 2 groups that would have struggled or been excluded from the old underground toilets. But no Changing Places toilet, which is a shame.


They’re providing 2 urinals and 2 cubicles in the men’s, and 4 cubicles in the ladies’.

That’s not much.

The logic is that *most* people will go to the loo in John Lewis or House of Fraser. And maybe they’re right, considering the apparent underuse of the old toilets.

Apart from under provision there is also unequal provision.

As women take on average twice as long to go to the toilet due to clothing, anatomy, health, menstuation etc, women should be provided with twice as many toilets as men in order to receive an *equal* provision.

In this case the men have 4 places to pee (urinals + toilets) and the women have 4, meaning that if all facilities are being used in both, the women will have to wait twice as long.

Hello Queue!

This does assume that equal numbers of men and women are using the facilities. You never know, there may be twice as many men using these facilities, in which case the provision ratio is fair.

There’s even evidence in some of the contractor’s research to back this up (and in general a lot more men use Westminster’s West-End facilities then women), but it strikes me as odd. (This is Oxford Street!!)

If any one has any theories on this I’d love to hear them :) There’s more rambling about Queueing for the Ladies (and the “Potty Parity” movement in the USA) in this old blog post by me.

Anyway, when wedding-dress shopping on Easter Weekend I spotted the planning permission notice.

You can view the planning permission and submit comments by clicking this link.

According to the site, a decision is due on 25-APR-201

In other words, 2 days ago.

Ahem. I’d better get reading!


Entry filed under: Product Design, Service Design. Tags: , , , , , .

… Open.Up … London’s Toilet Info

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