Wed, 12 Jun 2019
FUTURE plans for Thatcham’s public toilets are still being discussed, with town councillors querying whether to commit to refurbishing them.
The town council acquired the toilets for £1 in 2015, after West Berkshire Council said they were surplus to requirements and sought to offload them.
The town council has now budgeted £97,000, plus a contingency, for the building’s future use.
The number of cubicles is being reduced to two unisex and one for disabled people and baby-changing facilities, but the use of the rest of building has not been decided yet.
At a recent meeting, town councillors were asked to note that phase one of the project was underway, but talk turned to the future of the Broadway and the toilets’ place in it.
Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said that the toilets should be considered around a broader discussion about the Broadway.
He suggested that the town council refer back to the Turley Report – an assessment between West Berkshire Council and Turley Associates to set out ideas for improving the Broadway and High Street.
The report concluded that the toilets were “an inappropriate focal point and landmark” and that options for retaining and redesigning them be considered.
These included new uses, such as permanent market stalls or community use, or replacing them with a new building or meeting place.
West Berkshire Council submitted an expression of interest to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, to apply for a grant to improve the town centre.
Referencing the bid, town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) asked: “Would we want to progress with the plan [for the toilets] only to find that West Berkshire Council are knocking down the toilets?”.
Mr Brooks agreed, adding that councillors should ask what West Berkshire Council was proposing “to do to our town”.
The council’s bid could result in a number of improvements to Thatcham Broadway and High Street, including highways improvements, enhancement of the public toilets and refurbishment of the street scene.
Saying that he had been involved in the bid, Steve Ardargh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Crookham) said: “The view in West Berkshire was, while not a particularly deprived area, the centre of Thatcham needed improvement.
“This seemed a good opportunity to get the ball rolling.”
He added that there had been “no commitments or assumptions on any specific direction” and that the future of the Broadway should be decided between the town councils for the greater good of the town.
Simon Pike (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “I remember an officer attending a Thatcham Vision meeting about how he would change the outlook of the building.
“One way would be to knock down the toilets because they are a distraction and seem a bit out of place.
“I wouldn’t want to lose the toilets, but also not have them in front of the war memorial.”
The Turley Report suggested a community café, dedicated market space and narrowed roads to update the Broadway and High Street.
The report said that too much space was provided for traffic and, as traffic was one-way, recommended that widening footways and providing ‘courtesy crossings’ alongside a recognisable parking area be introduced in the Broadway.
It added that widened footways, along with more trees, would also distract attention from the “poor-quality buildings and shop fronts”.