“Just get them open”

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Rye Town Council has voted to use up to £10,000 from reserves to open the public toilets on The Strand as soon as possible. An emergency meeting at the town hall on Monday May 20 was told “Just get them open – the town will never forgive us if we don’t”.

The comments were made by Councillor Mike Boyd and led to a unanimous vote to ensure The Strand toilets will re-open until at least the end of the summer season, although no date was set for them to be unlocked.

Further discussions will be needed with Rother District Council (RDC) who own and run the toilets – and closed the toilets on The Strand and in the Gun Garden as a cost-saving measure last year.

Following the meeting the town council submitted a proposal to take over the running of the Strand Quay conveniences for a four-month period over the summer / early autumn.

Strand toilets closed by Rother District Council

Whilst a short-term solution to The Strand toilets may be in sight, finding an answer in the long term for all of Rye public toilets seems far off. The council’s clerk Richard Fairhall was praised for his work behind the scenes with RDC, however long-running discussions over the transfer of funding and freeholds continue to drag on. The toilets in the Gun Garden need expensive repair after vandalism, and there is also no agreement for funding and ongoing maintenance of all four public toilets in Rye.

Closed toilets at Gun Garden

The meeting heard concerns about coach parties reviewing their trips to Rye. Sarah Broadbent from Rye Chamber of Commerce told the meeting about the affect the closures were having local businesses and explained how the Chamber was trying to help. “We’re exploring whether funding from our levelling up bid could be used and talking to companies about finding a sustainable plan. We are looking at sponsorship ideas and whether touch and pay or turnstiles might be viable. There’s confusion over how other funding streams can be used for ongoing maintenance with different people being told different things.”

Mayor Andy Stuart told the meeting: “Everyone wants the toilets open”, to widespread agreement. Many councillors again expressed frustration at the red tape which appeared to be adding to the delays, and concerns RDC was resisting realistic funding discussions.

Fears were also shared that RDC could even close the two toilets that remain open as a further cost-saving measure. Clerk Richard Fairhall explained RDC appeared to be taking the issue seriously as could be seen by their agreement to work with villagers in Pett to reopen public toilets there.

Rother District Council has been approached for comment.

Closed toilets in Rye’s Gun Garden

The meeting also discussed other potential short and long term solutions: bringing in portable toilets, making them unisex, changing the layouts, and working with volunteers ahead of the bank holiday to find a temporary fix.

Councillors also heard how a new law being discussed at Westminster could see local firms getting business rate relief if they open up their toilets to the public.

Image Credits: James Stewart , Nick MacRae .

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6 COMMENTS

  1. How can it cost £10,000 to keep the convenience open for a few weeks during the summer? Electric light, water heater, daily cleaning: £10,000?
    Maybe ask for volunteers to help out. I’m sure there would be enough to do a bit of cleaning a day a month. I would for one…

    • The budget provision is ‘up to £10,000’ – however, the actual cost over 4 months is likely to be nearer £7,000. Costs include unlocking, locking, and cleaning twice daily, 7 days a week; initial repairs; legionella testing; water; sewerage; insurance; (possible) vandalism repairs and consumables (toilet paper, soap etc – past usage figures unavailable).
      It is doubtful that volunteers would last very long once they had encountered the ‘mess’ that some users leave behind them!
      Given the current condition of the public conveniences it would be difficult to justify charging – and then there is the cost of installing and maintaining the technology. However, it is likely that this would need to form part of a permanent solution to replace Rye’s current embarrassing public conveniences offer.

  2. Why not make people pay a small fee to use them. If you travel around the country ,a lot of councils have upgraded to secure metal doors and people pay to use them either by card or cash.
    People are forced to pay by app for parking. It’s not an ideal solution granted but it’s better than having them shut. As for costing “£10,000 currently. Really?.

  3. Maybe the answer is portaloos, if sponsor’s can be found,could be more beneficial than taking over these large toilets,which will sadly be vandalised in time,as we have seen over the years.and cannot be a worst eyesore than wheelie bins,stuck outside terraced houses,around the town each week.

  4. £10,000 may seem excessive to some readers but as Richard Farhall points out, that is a budget figure with actual costs estimated around £7000, if you look at what makes up those costs that is not unreasonable for a speedy, practical and relatively effective short term proposal. As the manager of the Heritage Centre on the Strand whose visitors are among the most affected, I am thrilled to see Rye Town Council actually working hard, proactively and visibly towards solutions. They are often criticised for what outwardly appears to be inaction and lethargy but take a look at the direction of the council over the last couple of years and things do seem to be heading in the right direction so praise where praise is due I say !

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