Tue, 11 Aug 2020
COUNCILLORS have approved a spend of more than £7,000 to reopen Thatcham’s public toilets.
The loos have been closed since March, but as lockdown is being eased, councillors want to reopen the conveniences.
However, they heard there was an “uphill struggle” to do this because of outstanding repairs and changes needed owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The cost includes replacing four water heaters, pipework alterations, installing new electrics, replacing four failed taps and fixed wiring inspection works.
Additional cleaning costs of £1,414.30 a month will also be required.
The town council is also awaiting Government guidance.
Town mayor Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said: “We would like to get them open as soon as possible, but we have no idea what the regulations regarding public toilets are going to be.
“We don’t know where we are going to be in a few months time.”
Services manager Mike Aslin added that the toilets were not particularly well designed for social distancing.
Hand sanitisers would be installed, along with one-in one-out signs.
Some urinals would also be closed.
“That would be the best we could achieve with what we have got,” he said.
Mr Aslin said that the additional cleaning would depend on footfall and may have to be increased.
Wanting to speed things up for “the benefit of Thatcham tax payers”, Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) asked if temporary measures could be installed in the meantime.
In response, Jeremy Cottam (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said: “If it was just simply replacing the hot water we would be able to do that, but it’s more than that.
“It’s taking into account the coronavirus crisis and making sure the safest result is given to the public.
“It’s urgent, but it’s right that we get it right first time.”
Councillors voted to allocate £7,461.60 of Community Infrastructure Levy receipts to carry out remedial repairs required to reopen the loos.
New designs for the layout of the building have also been discussed.
The current design consists of nine toilets and a urinal designed for three people.
The proposed designs will reduce the number of toilets and create an additional multipurpose space, yet be confirmed.
Previous ideas included a meeting space, shop or an extension to the town’s Friday market.
Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said the police could use the newly-designed loos as a drop-in centre to “help smooth, perhaps, the issues of anti-social behaviour”.
Mr Cottam said: “We are on top of this and working very hard... it’s a very fluid situation.
“We are awaiting coronavirus advice from the Government as to how to plan them out.
“It’s an urgent item we would like to tackle as soon as possible.
“We are awaiting parts which are difficult to get hold of.”