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New battle to open up public loo

Campaigners say frail and elderly must have access to market toilet

01 September, 2017 — By Chloe Livadeas

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to reopen a public toilet with warnings that elderly and disabled people are being caught short in a busy market street.

Westminster Council is under pressure to reopen the “iconic” public convenience in Church Street, Marylebone. The council said it has no legal duty to provide public toilets that it has shut down “indefinitely” and blames the decision on prostitution and drug dealing.

Treasa Sweeney, a landlady at the Trader’s Inn, said: “There are local disabled people who are coming into the pub instead. We have at least three regulars in wheelchairs, we have to carry them into the toilet.” She had been forced to put locks and signs on her toilet doors to stop the influx of non-paying customers.

The Church Street toilet has been hailed as a community asset, and as unique, in the sense that public toilets in London are mostly used by tourists, whereas this one was largely visited bytraders and shoppers.

Paul Clark, who has traded in Church Street Market for 34 years, said the toilet was a landmark. He said: “It’s been there for years, it’s a bit iconic. It’s even a meeting point. Everyone here will tell you it should reopen.”

The council has given a security code to market traders so they can use the toilet but this is not available to the general public. The toilet used to be manned by an attendant hired by the council’s private contractors Carlisle.

Murad Qureshi, a former Labour London Assembly Member who lives nearby, said CCTV cameras set up outside the toilet would have stopped the anti-social behaviour. “For whatever reason it’s been allowed to decline. It used to be managed well and managed with pride.” A petition to the council calling for the toilet to reopen has had no impact but Mr Qureshi said the campaign would not be “kicked into long grass in the hope we’ll forget about it”.

A council spokesman said “access to public facilities is something we take very seriously”, adding that the toilet’s closure was due to “an escalation in anti-social behaviour, drug using and prostitution centred around the toilets”.

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