As Preston city centre slowly comes back to life after lockdown, one key facility is missing – the public toilet.Advertisement
While toilets are available at Preston Market Hall and the train station, facilities at the Bus Station, St George’s Shopping centre, Fishergate and Lune Street all remain closed until further notice.
As well as being a potential hygiene issue, a lack of public toilets may disproportionately impact certain groups who for health reasons rely on these facilities to be able to leave their homes. It can also make life difficult for young families and people who work outside.
In a recent letter to councils, the Government has strongly urged authorities to reopen public toilets: “Councils should consider the harm to public health and the local environment caused by people relieving themselves in public.
“Public authorities should also consider the equality implications of those with particular health needs who need to use the toilet more often.”
One Market Hall trader said in recent weeks they have been inundated with people asking for directions to the toilets.
They said: “People are being told to use the Market toilets by staff at the Bus Station and St George’s. This is a joke for a city to only have three toilets and one accessible toilet. It is not on.”
The lack of public toilets reopening has also been noticed by charity Disability Equality North West.
Chief Executive Officer Melanie Close said: “A lot of good safety measures have been put in place in the city centre. Whilst these are welcomed, there’s no denying some of them disproportionately affect disabled people.
“The lack of toilet provision is a concern, particularly the fact that some are open but some aren’t, so it’s very difficult to know where you can go.
“The Market toilets are open, but they’re very busy on a Saturday. People queuing for nearby stalls and queuing for the toilets makes social distancing very difficult.
“We don’t want to compromise safety, but it does sometimes mean walking further than needed. For people with mobility impairments this can severely impact on the number of shops they can visit – bearing in mind there’s no coffee shops or places to sit down.”
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Despite the impact on groups including disabled people, Preston City Council says customer safety comes first.
Neil Fairhurst, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Customer Services at Preston City Council, said: “The toilets at the Market Hall continue to remain open to members of the public and Preston Market traders.
“Additional health and safety measures have been implemented to operate these facilities safely including frequent cleaning, a queuing system outlined by social distancing floor stickers and regular monitoring by the Markets team.
“It is, of course, more complicated with the reopening of non-essential shops and increased footfall, but we believe that toilet provisions are essential to welcoming visitors back to the city centre and have made this a priority. We would like to see more toilet facilities reopened for the public visiting the city centre in the coming days and weeks.
“The Coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on businesses in the city centre. Operators are doing their utmost to ensure they have all the correct safety measures in place prior to opening toilet facilities to the general public. Whilst inconvenient, the safety of customers is of paramount importance.”
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Both the Bus Station and St George’s say they will reopen their public toilets once safety measures are in place, but do not know when this will be.
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What do you think of the lack of public toilets in Preston city centre? Would it affect you or someone you know from being able to visit? Let us know in the comments.