Brown sign plan to fill gap left by toilet closures
PUBS and shops that allow the public to use their toilets could get special brown signs in a new initiative from Cornwall Council.
The council hopes businesses will step in to fill the hole left by public toilet closures due to budget cuts.
The motivation for businesses would be that customers going in to spend a penny could end up spending a lot more in shops and cafés that sign up to the scheme. However, one leading pub chain has branded the idea a non-starter.
Edwina Hannaford, Cabinet member for environment at Cornwall Council, said: "Businesses offer their premises for use by the public and in return they would get publicity through a brown sign."
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The sign would give the name of the business and mark it as a community toilet.
Mrs Hannaford said: "It will increase footfall and I would have thought retail, pubs and cafés would be interested."
Public toilets across Cornwall have closed over the past year as the council moved to halve the £1.5 million a year budget. Others have been taken over by parish or town councils.
Mrs Hannaford said the council was also looking at the possibility of its own premises being used as public toilets as part of the new scheme.
She said details of the project – such as how the signs would be paid for – were still under discussion.
But Wetherspoons, which operates large pubs in town centres across Cornwall, has already spoken out against the scheme.
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: "Towns are far better off with public loos, if necessary charging in central locations; since not everyone likes to go into pubs.
"A scheme like that outlined by the council can cause problems for licenceholders in terms of supervision, fear of drug use and many other issues, so we feel that this burden can't be added to existing wide responsibilities undertaken by pub licensees."
James Staughton, managing director of St Austell Brewery, said he wanted to see more information in order to fully consider the scheme.
Similar systems have already proved to be a success in other areas, including Richmond, Lambeth, Stockport and Oxford.