Thu, 10 May 2018
CONSERVATIVE members on Newbury Town Council have washed their hands of a “desirable” proposal to install a public shower facility in the Wharf toilets, using unspent funds.
Rather than dipping into committee reserves to consider funding the initiative, members opted to “do nothing” with the idea.
The town council’s opposition leader Martha Vickers (Lib Dem, Northcroft) put forward the proposal as part of a wider initiative that could improve rough sleepers’ cleanliness.
Councillors met last week to consider earmarking £12,500 from the unspent 2017-18 policy and resources committee projects fund to support the proposal.
Mrs Vickers was not present at the meeting.
It was suggested that the shower facility – thought to cost in the region of £10,000, with ongoing running and maintenance costs – could provide a service for cyclists, walkers and runners, as well as other energetic commuters who might need a shower before or after work.
Councillors took into account an assessment of the available space, which was undertaken by the town council’s community services manager.
This determined that structural, plumbing, water protection, drainage and electrical works would have to be undertaken in order to facilitate the proposal.
Julian Swift-Hook (Lib Dem, Pyle Hill) highlighted the facility would not require the council to spend new money and claimed members should rise to the challenge of improving the environment around the Wharf toilets.
But Tony Stretton (Con, Clay Hill) was reluctant to support the scheme, claiming the council should follow the advice recommended by the community services manager in his report.
Mr Stretton said: “I think, at this present time, we should put this on the back-burner, but I am not ruling it out for the future.”
It was also noted that there had not been any specific evidence or recent demand for the need of a shower facility from cyclists and that the facility would require ongoing supervision.
This, said the council’s chief executive Hugh Peacocke, made the proposal unsafe and would generate a “very substantial” cost.
Mr Peacoke also compared the situation to the Wharf toilets, where only part-time supervision is required.
But councillor Jo Day (Lib Dem, Northcroft), standing in for Mrs Vickers, said: “It is a desirable facility and I think we should consider other ways of achieving until it can be run in a satisfactory manner.”
Mr Swift-Hook called for a more detailed report which better stipulated the cost for the scheme.
But councillors not only decided to act on the advice given in the community services manager’s report, but also to do nothing with the scheme.