GRAND designs could be afloat for Thatcham’s public toilets.
In an effort to save money on the Broadway loos, Thatcham Town Council is to commission an architect to assess their use.
The architect would provide an assessment and feasibility study, with the intention to provide an alternative use for any space vacated, should the number of cubicles be reduced.
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 took them on without conducting a condition survey and thought they were saving money.
However, the latest figures show that the toilets cost £29,186 to run last year, with maintenance and water the steepest outgoings.
An efficiency survey predicted very low savings and concluded that while minor works could reduce electricity consumption, little could be done to reduce the water bill.
The council’s services manager, Naomi Mildenhall, told town councillors at a meeting last week that the condition of the loos “wasn’t brilliant”.
“It will in future need some work doing to it,” she said.
“In some ways we are pre-empting that.”
She said the architect’s assessment would look at the building as a whole and whether the current number of cubicles was required for the building.
Referring to the Turley report – an assessment between West Berkshire Council and Turley Associates to set out ideas for improving the Broadway and High Street – Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham north) said that the future of the loos needed to be considered in conjunction with the wider plans for the town centre.
“The architect might turn round and say ‘turn it into a bandstand’, but we have no need for that,” he said.
“West Berkshire Council owns the freehold, so we need to talk to them.
“We don’t want to be doing this piecemeal.”
The Turley report said that the toilets were “an inappropriate focal point and landmark” in the town centre.
It concluded by considering redevelopment of the area with options for retaining and redesigning the toilets, including new uses such as permanent market stalls or community use, or its demolition and replacement with a new building or meeting place.
Mr Dillon asked whether the move was about cutting costs or the best use of the site.
Town Council leader Jason Collis (Con, Thatcham north) said: “The building needs to be better used.
“Even if we don’t do anything externally the interior could be better used.”
Asking about the running costs, Liberal Democrat councillor Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham west) asked whether the condition of the toilets was checked before the town council agreed to take them on.
“The figures we were using at the time we took over were ones provided by West Berkshire Council,” town clerk Mel Alexander replied.
“We now have a better understanding of the reality of the figures and that’s what they were costing.
“The town council didn’t ask for a condition survey to be carried out, but we are asking for that routinely now.”
The architects fee for preparing the three schemes would be £1,175.