Agenda item

Petition: Re-open public conveniences in Reigate and Banstead Borough parks

To receive and consider a Petition regarding the re-opening of public conveniences in Reigate and Banstead Borough parks.

Minutes:

The Lead Petitioner, Ms Rachel Wood, addressed Council:

·         The petition called on the Council to make toilet provision available in Lady Neville Recreation Ground, Banstead Priory Park and Memorial Park. For those to be cleaned regularly and include baby change facilities and disabled access.

·         A total of 568 signatories to the petition were received along with countless messages of support including those that detailed how the park was being used by members of the public to relieve themselves due to the lack of toilet facilities.

·         The temporary toilets in Memorial and Priory Parks were acknowledged although photographs showed that they were overflowing.

·         Toilet facilities remained unavailable in Lady Neville rec with the Council’s suggestion of walking 10 minutes to the nearest toilet not feasible for small children and those with disabilities or medical conditions.

·         The Council’s reliance on private leases of park cafes was not an acceptable solution to the provision of public toilets. It was noted that the Council’s use of short-term leases had made it impossible for cafes to remain open previously when the cost of living started to increase. Called for the provision of toilets to be separate from the provision of cafes to enable greater participation in the Borough’s parks which would boost the local economy.

·         Whilst there was no statutory obligation for Councils to provide public toilets, Section 1 of the Localism Act 2011, gave local authorities a general power to source innovative solutions to meet the needs of the community.

·         It was suggested funding proper partitions of toilets in park cafes so that these could remain open when the cafes were closed or alternatively turning park cafes into community hubs.

 

Councillor (Andrew) King, the Portfolio Holder for Commercial & Community Assets, gave the response on behalf of the Executive:

·         Thanks were given to the lead petitioner, Ms Rachel Wood, and other residents for their engagement through the petition.

·         The call for the Council to open public toilets in Redhill Memorial Park and Lady Neville parks was rejected where these would be provided by privately leased cafes during trading hours.

·         The provision at Priory Park would be operated by the Council.

·         Horley recreation ground was operated by Horley Town Council and therefore was not part of the remit of Reigate & Banstead Borough Council.

·         Temporary toilet provision was in place in Memorial and Priory Parks from late June 2023 onwards and would remain in place until the new tenants were in occupation. The costs of the provision were significant and were being offset by the income from the temporary mobile catering provision.

·         Letting of the tenancies was progressing. All three park cafes had their heads of terms agreed and draft leases issued which would be subject to legal review. Programme plans were to be formulated.

·         Against a backdrop of high energy costs and the difficulties of the hospitality sector, the Council had achieved a solid financial outcome from re-letting the park cafes which would also provide ongoing toilet facilities for residents over the longer-term.

 

Three Members had registered to speak on the petition. Councillor Essex supported the petition and called on the Council to operate the cafes if no private contractor could be found, ensuring that the toilets were made available to residents. Support for the petition was also provided by Councillor Harp who asked for toilets to be made available in Nork Park. Councillor Ritter also supported the petition. The link between toilets in parks and health and wellbeing objectives being achieved through social prescribing and getting out into nature was highlighted. Women needed toilets more than men and these were therefore also an issue of gender equality.

 

Councillor (Andrew) King, the Executive Member for Commercial & Community Assets, responded to the petition debate. He expressed sympathy for all the points raised but highlighted the balance to be struck between increasing services and the resulting financial burden. Toilets would be provided through private lease with temporary provision in place until this became available.

 

Councillor King proposed and Councillor Sachdeva seconded a motion to note the petition but to take no further action as a result. The motion was rejected by a vote of Members.

 

Councillor Essex proposed and Councillor Ritter seconded a motion to support the petition as put. The motion was rejected by a vote of Members.

 

Councillor Biggs proposed and Councillor Avery seconded a motion to refer the petition to the Executive for its consideration.

 

RESOLVED: to refer the petition on public toilets in the Borough’s parks to the Executive for consideration.

Supporting documents: