AFTER months of uncertainty, the public toilets at The Wharf in Newbury are set to stay open for good – but people will have to pay 20p to ‘spend a penny’.
As part of its plan to save £17.5m this year, West Berkshire Council withdrew all of its funding for the toilets and told Newbury Town Council it would have to find the cash to keep them open.
But, despite putting aside £15,000, the town council was unable to find enough money to do so and the toilets subsequently closed on March 31.
After a public outcry, and coach drivers threatening to boycott the town, the council reopened them for a three- month period to monitor its usage.
Data shows that, on average, 273 people a day used the toilets between the start of May and end of August 2016.
In the last week of August alone, 2,301 people visited the facilities.
As a result, Newbury Town Council now wants to appoint a contractor to install turnstiles and take over the day-to-day running of the toilets.
The council admits the number of people using the toilets could fall by up to 50 per cent if a 20p charge was introduced, but says it doesn’t have the expertise to do it alone.
Newbury Town Council is in the process of signing a 99-year lease from West Berkshire Council to take on the responsibility of the toilets.
Both West Berkshire Council and Newbury Town Council have agreed to pay up to £10,000 towards the initial costs.
However, West Berkshire Council has put in a clause saying it can break the lease with 12 months’ notice if the land is required for development.
In a report to councillors, it says: “Newbury Town Council would like to retain this important facility for the town centre and the people of Newbury.
“This will require a long-term transfer from West Berkshire District Council and suitable arrangements for funding and running the facility.
“If Newbury Town Council does not act in this matter it is likely the toilets will close again, this time permanently.”