Public Toilets or Political in-Convenience?


Many years ago when I was in the Cub Scouts at a summer camp we all had to do a little ‘playlet’ (not quite Oscar standard, but we were all only nine) and one group did theirs in which people were looking around a ‘ very small house!!’ that was as the sign said


What we all found amusing as young lads was when someone came along and added the ‘i’ turning it into


Which brings me back to the ongoing issue since 2006 of the condition of Toilets in Northampton that has once again raised its head with the Conservative administration’s proposals to sell off the toilets in Abington Square and Towcester Road?

The Liberal Democrats are of course ‘politically incensed’ and from their point of view for good reason, but is it justified?

There is no doubt that in the last budget of the no overall control Council in 2006 the Conservatives took the decision to close a number of Northampton Borough toilets to help balance the budget.

It was a budget decision that was initially supported by the Liberal Democrats who then decided at the last-minute to oppose it when it turned out to be very unpopular and as is common promised to open them all up again if elected to run the council.

A promise as electoral history in Northampton shows happened and which also shows a promise that wasn’t kept allowing the Conservatives to claim that toilets were closed under the Liberal Democrats and promising to open them if elected in 2011?

It even figured very highly on a giant poster on display at the town’s rail station and was pushed through tens of thousands of Northampton doors in the lead up to the election last year.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats promised to open toilets in Northampton

Labour opposed the closure of toilets in 2006 and again during the Liberal Democrat years between 2007 and 2011.

So what has happened?

The Conservative administration has closed Sheep Street toilets as a necessary step in developing the new bus interchange on the Fish Market site, which we are told will have toilets in the new bus station.

They have failed to re-open the toilets at Midsummer Meadow which would have provided a necessary facility for the huge number of young people who are making use of the Radlands Skate Park, the result of which is that they are having to ‘take to the bushes’ with all of the health issues that entails.

(As a slight digression – does the by-law about urinating in an improper place apply to the skate park area, and if it does why should young people be penalised for the Borough Council administration’s failure to plan and deliver the necessary facilities to support the skate park?)

So back to the toilets in Abington Square,

Who is going to buy them and will we see a ‘FOR SALE’ sign suddenly appear on them?

What should be of greatest concern is the number of people who are voting not to visit Northampton and the falling footfall that has contributed to the number of vacant properties increasing from 45 to over 80 in the last 12 months, and which I have no doubt would have been worse had it not been for the excellent work carried out by the Northampton Town Centre BID.

What is worrying is the number of TO LET signs that continue to appear in the Northampton Town Centre and the very real danger that people will perceive it to be a town for let or even worse a place that should have an ‘i’ added.

It now needs a radical and innovative approach by all of those businesses and organisations who own vacant retail properties to agree to act together to reduce rents and find ways to attract people into what should be a fantastic place to visit.