Posts tagged ‘Maps’
“A 28% reduction in public toilets since 2000, in England and Wales.”
That’s my headline, now an explanation of all the data and assumptions that lead me to it.
Public toilets are subject to business rates, so the valuation office agency has details on all public toilets along with their rateable value. This was recently mentioned in a regular toilet-enthusiasts email conversation, along with the suggestion of using the data to calculate the number of closures, after the Prime Minister said in 2015 that he’d look into exempting public toilets from business rates to save them from closure.
Where’s the data from?
I’ve collated valuation office agency figures from 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.
The figures for 2000 and 2002-2004 were recorded in Hansard in 2005.
- 2000: 6087 toilets
- 2002: 5882 toilets
- 2003: 5701 toilets
- 2004: 5539 toilets
[analysis of provisional Valuation Office Agency Data. Data as at 1 October 2000, and 1 April for 2002, 2003 and 2004]
The figure for 2008 is given in a Parliamentary Question from 2008.
- 2008: 5084 toilets (30 Jan 2008)
The data for 2012 I received in an email from another toilet enthusiast.
- 2012: 4626 toilets (Dec 2012)
The data from 2016 I copy/pasted into Excel from 107 pages of Valuation Office Agency search results (fun times).
- 2016: 4383 toilets (March 2016)
From the 2016 data, as I had the full dataset rather than just the total number, I could interrogate the data. I deleted any results that were themselves listed as ‘deleted’ in the rateable value column rather than as a value (which I’d assume the figures for other years also do; certainly the 2012 data does not include any toilets marked ‘deleted’). Even then, there are toilets listed as ‘under reconstruction’, ‘derelict’, ‘closed’; however these are relatively few (~40) once the ‘deleted’ data is removed.
Here’s an ugly graph of the data showing the 28% decline between 2000-2016:
What does the data include?
The Valuation Office Agency rating manual for ‘public conveniences’ states this relates to “all types of public convenience provide for use by the general public (with or without payment). For the avoidance of doubt it is not relevant to the valuation of public toilets forming part of larger hereditaments.”
Rateable values are also applied to automatic public conveniences (‘superloos’) and free-standing urinals – although there’s only 1 urinal listed in the 2016 data.
So how many of England and Wales ‘public’ toilets are included?
Certainly community toilet schemes are not, nor are supermarkets or department stores, or train or tube stations (except Green Park, oddly). It does include some bus stations, but not others.
Where I live in Walthamstow (E17) it lists toilets in the shopping precinct (there are actually two sets but listed as one) and toilets at a suburban station that I’m not aware exist, but it doesn’t include the bus station or park, let alone the library, museum or community toilet scheme. Where I used to live in Battersea (SW11) it doesn’t list any, but again there are three sets of toilets in Battersea Park and at least one set in a cemetery, as well as libraries, department stores, train stations..
So it’s tricky to say how far away this is the absolute value for ‘public’ toilets. More expertise would also been needed (from the valuation office agency themselves perhaps) to know for certain how the previous years’ figures were compiled to be sure they are comparable to 2012 and 2016. What it does show very clearly (assuming definitions have not significantly changed) is that public toilets have significantly declined.
Other sources of data
The 2008 Communities and Local Government Select Committee Report, The Provision of Public Toilets, states that ‘Valuation Office Agency data on the number of toilets with a rateable value shows a decrease from 5,410 toilets in 2000 to 4,423 in 2008, a reduction of 987 or 16 per cent.’
Although it is not stated, this data must be for England only, in which case it’s not too far off the numbers given for Jan 2000 in Hansard (5342 for England alone).
The same report also states the number of toilets listed in the Ordnance Survey Points of Interest database. ‘This identifies around 9,800 public toilets in England in 2007. These are public toilets that are visible from outside, so do not include public toilets inside buildings such as train stations or shopping centres’ It also points out that disabled toilets are exempt from business rates.
There are 406 councils in the UK responsible for public toilets. We collected information on nearly all of them, either through their website information or through nearly 300 FOI requests to councils for The Great British Public Toilet Map. In January I coloured-in a map of the UK to show toilets per council.
On Thursday I went to a Visualising Data workshop run by the Future Cities Catapult. They gave lots of advice on presenting data and using it to tell stories. For example, it’s important to choose the range of colours carefully so that it’s clear what you’re trying to convey, by using sites like colorbrewer2.org (as opposed to using whatever felt pens you can find in the office, see image 1).
They also proposed that just because you can present location data on a map, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best way. This is definitely something to take on board, but not before I figure out how to make the above map digitally.
So I’ve used CartoDB to do just that. The interactive version, with useful things like Titles! and Keys! is here: http://cdb.io/1HuiPn0. Meanwhile, here are still images.
(note: I’ve not included councils that have no toilets. This also includes some councils that do have toilets but didn’t give any data and we didn’t seek to count London councils at the time, so they are also blank. Also the free trial of CartoDB only allowed 50MB of data which wasn’t enough to import council boundaries for the whole UK, so this is just England & Wales :( )
First, I’ve remapped toilets per council:
…which is a lot clearer.
Then, because it’s digital I could replot the data instantly and try other things relating to population and area. Toggling between toilets and population showed that broadly, councils with more people have more toilets. It also highlighted areas that are exceptions – noteably the national parks and seaside resorts – loads of toilets and very few people.
This also shows one of the limits, because toilets aren’t necessarily needed so much for residents but for visitors as well.
There are still exceptions. this map of people per toilet shows the huge range – from just 315 people/toilet (Isles of Scilly) to over 200K people sharing 1 public toilet (Solihull).
I don’t know what the optimum number of people per toilet is, but the range is alarming.
There is of course the old problem that this may also partially highlight the variety in the information given by different councils either by FOI or website, i.e. what they consider a ‘public toilet’.
However there’s enough bright red to make me think something is going wrong in those areas, and it’s worth a closer, more local investigation. I suspect there are also more interesting datasets to map than population or area, but I’m not sure where to start. Please send suggestions!
You can play with the interactive version at http://cdb.io/1EeCMqg.
The Great British Public Toilet Map launched last Wednesday 19th November on World Toilet Day*
Previous versions of the map have existed since 2011, but this is now the largest publicly accessible toilet database in the UK by some way. It has over 9500 toilets, and I’d be confident of saying that the map will help you to find toilets no matter where you live.
If for some inexplicable reason it doesn’t, you can add, edit and remove toilets until it does! We’ve had over 1000 toilets added this week.
There are also a tiny minority of locations where the data has gone a bit loopy with duplicate loos or inaccurate locations. Don’t be shy about removing those that you think are wrong, or telling us at email@example.com about parts of the country that may need a little attention. You’ll be doing us a huge favour.
*As well as World Toilet Day, it was also GIS Day (Geographic Information System). They might as well name it Toilet Map Day.
It never rains but it pours..
I’m still catching up on everything that’s happened in the past year, but it seems that Ordnance Survey are opening up their toilet data!
Or to be very, very, specific..
“..recently we have enabled our IP to be used in an open data release of one council’s toilet data, and if any others approach us for releasing toilet data this is likely to be on the same terms”
It’s great that OS have recognised that open toilet data is in the public interest and personally I think they deserve a really big hug.
Past posts on the OS saga:
Using information from council websites, I made some maps to show the varying numbers and types of toilet across London, from public toilets and community toilet schemes to other publicly accessible toilets (in Stations etc..). That was yesterday’s blog post.
It revealed as much about the levels of information on council websites as much as it did about the number of toilets. With that in mind, I’m going to milk the data a little more, to see what else it can reveal.
I downloaded a pretty cool dataset called ‘London Borough Profiles’ from the GLA’s London Datastore (though I only ended up using the population data)
Firstly, here’s a map of population by borough.
(Link to actual map)
I’m quite surprised. I knew Wandsworth (where I live) has 300 000 residents, but I didn’t know that this was nearly twice as many as neighbouring Hammersmith & Fulham.
Clearly Wandsworth should have more toilets than Hammersmith & Fulham..
..but how many toilets is enough?
I’ve made a graphical map of public toilets in London by using the information given on council websites.
It says as much about council websites as it does about toilets.
For example, the 4 ‘white’ areas show councils with ‘No Toilets’. That’s because they don’t have a public toilet webpage. They may have squillions of toilets, but like the proverbial tree in the forest – if a public toilet isn’t listed on the council website, does it really exist?
We made a first version of The Great British Public Toilet Map.
It’s not really a toilet map.