Posts tagged ‘Planning’
I feel like a bit of a loser.
I’ve just been to a public exhibition about the Nine Elms regeneration project, a huge chunk of London between Battersea and Vauxhall that will have ‘an anticipated 16000 new homes and 25000 new jobs’, including the redeveloped Battersea Power Station.
So me turning up to ask developers who are between them essentially building a new town if they’ve thought much about the public toilets feels a bit like asking where the postboxes are going to be. Although that also sounds quite interesting…
So why did I go?
It would have been easier not to go. I’m not even working today. I think “a mix of professional and personal interests’ might be my official response, but really my motivation came down to two things: guilt and nosiness.
(Actually that can be applied to almost every event I go to..)
“I’m starting to think that, actually, we don’t need more public toilets…”
This was the guilty whisper of one toilet expert of my acquaintance during another of our
obsessive rants research meetings.
For years (decades in fact), organisations have been counting and objecting to the decline in public toilets. 10% decline over this period… 20% down over another… etc.
However the overall numbers don’t tell the real story.
For one thing, the term ‘public toilets’ doesn’t take into consideration shopping centre toilets, department store toilets, supermarket toilets, train station toilets, etc…
Yet all of these Not So Public Toilets are available, to varying degrees, for the public to use, be it at the discretion of the private-manager.
Public toilets sprang to life in the Victorian age, from a culture of ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ and the philanthropic attitude of the upper classes towards the poor, filthy masses.
Today I’ve been working my way through the supporting documents for the new public toilets for Oxford Street. (My previous blog post about them is here and the planning documents are here, at the time of writing.)
My response to the planning proposal is here (pdf). I made 4 points, about Gender Ratios, Signs, ‘Changing Places’ and Benches.
It wasn’t easy to comment on a planning application. Here’s why…
1 – I had to know about it.
- As part of my research I met a man at Westminster Council in 2009 who told me they were hoping to build a public toilet pavillion on this site (between John Lewis and House of Fraser).
- In 2010 I heard that there was something in a London paper about the department stores objecting because it would draw people away from their stores!
- Finally, the developers of the toilets contacted my Supervisor as they were looking for some researchers to count nearby toilets (tempting, but not what we do).
So I kept an eye out.
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.
The planned Localism Bill will “devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities control over housing and planning decisions,” which must mean that local people will be asked (or will offer) to get more involved.
Meanwhile the British Toilet Association are encouraging locals to fight for better public toilets through their ‘Where Can I Go?’ campaign; a ‘bottom up’ approach – getting locals to demand things from their local government. They’ve already tried the alternative top down version when they spoke as witnesses at the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) 2008 Select Committee into public toilets. But despite the committee’s recommendations, the DCLG refused to impose any statutory duty or national demands relating to public toilets: a new approach was needed.
So local governments make the decisions on public toilets and local people should get involved.
But how do local governments make decisions? and how do we get involved?
Planning seems like a big issue here. Local authority toilets must be designed into town regeneration or urban planning processes.