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Tory U-bend on toilet plan

RED-faced Tories are flushed with embarrassment after scrapping controversial plans to close all public toilets in Hart.

The U-turn was due to be officially announced at Hart’s full council meeting last night (Thursday).

Stephen Parker, the Hart cabinet member responsible for toilets, said: “Members will recall that this time last month this council approved a budget which included a saving of £50,000 involving the closure of public conveniences.

“A number of representations have been made, not least by colleagues in affected wards, showing that this proposal lacks public support.

“I have listened to the comments from members and residents and I have decided that we will learn from their comments.

“This administration is not afraid to admit if we make a mistake, and to speedily correct it.

“We will fund the toilets remaining open from savings elsewhere to enable us to find a solution which meets the needs of the people of Hart while offering better value for public money.

“We are in discussions with the parish councils and others involved with a view to a permanent solution to the issue.”

The Conservatives wanted to close the toilets as part of their controversial cost-cutting budget, which included several job losses.

Public notices were put up on the doors of the toilets saying they will close from Monday.

One of the signs on the door of the Victoria Road car park toilets in Fleet had “disgrace” written over it.

Residents and charity groups panned the move.

John Copland from Heckfield fired off a letter to Cllr Parker.

“A significant step forward during the 19th and 20th centuries in the civilising of towns and villages throughout this county and the world was the introduction of public conveniences,” he wrote.

“What on earth is Hart District Council trying to do with its madcap intention to close the only public convenience in Hartley Wintney, which is in the council car park?

“I cannot believe that the attempt to keep the council tax increase to 2.5% is to be characterised by this laughably inappropriate saving.

“What is so sacrosanct about this 2.5% cap that public loos that exist should be made redundant?

“As a council tax payer I object strongly to your intentions, which will have a severe impact on the public — especially those with incontinence problems.”

Hartley Wintney resident Mike Dykes said: “This seems like a new way to increase local government funds. Time the decision to coincide with David Blunkett’s new measure — a fixed penalty of £80 for those caught urinating in public.

“This is a measure targeting the young and the old, who find controlling their bladders difficult at the best of times.

“Why are we in this area so different from Reading, where they are increasing the number of toilets for the public.

“This crazy idea of saving the council budget may look good on a balance sheet but from past experience will smell bad not too long after the plan has been put in force.

“Hart Council really must think again.”

Odiham town centre manager Peter Fountain said he was concerned the public toilets in King Street were due to be closed.

“Public conveniences are a basic necessity and in order to promote Odiham such facilities should be in place.

“We are a growing, attractive community and every year we welcome many visitors. I do not believe that we should rely on the local hostelries to resolve this matter.”

Fleet Lions member Howard Dixon also attacked the plan, warning it could mean the end to a number of money-spinning charity events staged by the group.

“We have up to a thousand motorcyclists and spectators attend a classic motorcycle rally in the Victoria Road car park so what are the organisers, who are there all day, going to do?”

“Thousands of people attend the annual fireworks fiesta, as well as several hundred family members who take part in our sponsored cycle rides from the Views.”

Mr Dixon said shoppers in the town centre would feel the wider impact of the toilet closures.

“Senior citizens, children and pregnant women will be badly affected,” he warned.

“It will have a serious effect on the attraction of the town and customers with a choice will go elsewhere.

“The provision of toilet facilities should be a civic right and no level of cost-cutting can justify their removal.”

Former Hart Council chairman Peter Shoesmith also slammed the proposal.

“It will be exceedingly inconvenient and embar-rassing to many people, including the elderly, young children and expectant mothers,” he said.

“Hygiene in this day and age is of prime importance, together with the comfort and convenience of residents.”


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