The decline in public toilets is a threat to health, mobility, and equality, according to a public health body.
A new report from the Royal Society for Public Health says that increasing pressure on council budgets has led to the privatisation or closure of many public toilets.
The report, entitled ‘Taking the P***’, warns that this has a disproportional impact on people with ill health, disabilities, the elderly, women, outdoor workers and the homeless.
The knowledge of a lack of facilities nearby acts as a ‘loo leash’, deterring as many as one in five (20%) from venturing out of their homes as often as they would like.
This percentage rises to over two in five (43%) among those with medical conditions requiring frequent toilet use.
Over half (56%) of the public restrict fluid intake due to concern over lack of toilet facilities.
The RSPH argues that the Government should make the provision of public toilets compulsory on a well planned and regulated basis.
‘Our report highlights that the dwindling public toilet numbers in recent years is a threat to health, mobility, and equality that we cannot afford to ignore,’ said Shirley Cramer, RSPH chief executive.
‘As is so often the case in this country, it is a health burden that falls disproportionately on already disadvantaged groups.
‘Standing in the way of this necessary and serious policy discussion is a stubbornly persistent ‘toilet taboo’, a decade of cuts to local authorities, and an increasingly ingrained notion that public toilets are merely a ‘nice-to-have’.
‘Public toilets are no luxury: it’s high time we begin to see them as basic and essential parts of the community – just like pavements and street lights – that enable people to benefit from and engage with their surroundings.’
Commenting on the report, Unison head of local government Jon Richards said: ‘Billions of pounds slashed from council budgets mean people struggle to spend a penny even when they’re desperate.
‘It’s also a real inconvenience for those who work outside, such as care assistants, district nurses, refuse collectors and others who don’t have offices.’