This weekend, The Observer published an article highlighting the increasing shortage of public loos in the UK. According to research, the number of public toilets maintained and funded by principal authorities fell from 3154 in 2016/16 to 2556 in 2020/21, a drop of 19% over six years on top of an already reduced provision.
This shortage of facilities has a direct impact on already disadvantaged groups including the elderly, disabled and those sleeping rough. Royal Society for Public Health Director of Policy, Jyotsna Vohra said, ‘The dwindling number of public toilets is a health and mobility inequality that we cannot afford to ignore.’
Many former loos have been imaginatively repurposed as bars, nightclubs, art galleries and even, in Malvern, Worcestershire, the world’s smallest theatre (according to 2002 Guinness World Records). More principal authorities are transferring ownership to local councils and community groups as a way of keeping them open to the public. In Wales for example, Powys Council has transferred 56 toilets to other organisations, shut five and kept only two. Raymond Martin, managing director of the British Toilet Association is concerned that the limited resources will be reflected in a lower level of service and said, ‘A lot of them are doing an absolutely sterling job trying to keep these things open, but they’re really, really struggling in many cases to keep these things alive.’