Posted: Mon 13th Mar 2023

Buckley community leaders spearhead plans to transform Old Baths into multi-use community space

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Mar 13th, 2023

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Introducing public toilets forms part of a community group plan led by councillors to transform the Old Baths in Buckley.

Buckley Pentrobin Cllr Mike Peers (Ind) one of the councillors involved in The Old Buckley Baths Community Hall Ltd, revealed the plans during a meeting of this month’s Flintshire Council’s environment and economy scrutiny committee.

The committee was discussing the authority’s toilet strategy, a plan to raise the standard of facilities across the county.

Although such a strategy is required by the Welsh Government, local authorities are under no statutory obligation to provide public toilets with the likes of cafes, community and leisure centres, and other local businesses asked to signpost people to their facilities.

While a number of toilets in Flintshire have closed in the last decade due to budget cuts, there are still council-owned public toilets in areas such as Mold (at the bus station) and Talacre where priority need has been identified.

But budget pressures, vandalism and anti-social behaviour causing an increase in maintenance costs are factors councillors and officers will be asked to grapple with as they form the future strategy.

During the discussion, Cllr Peers highlighted issues with arson and vandalism at the Buckley Town Council operated toilets near the library.

He said as part of the revamp of the Old Baths, public toilet facilities have been included in designs for a multi-use community space, but the project is dependent on funding being secured.

Cllr Peers said: “The Old Buckley Baths is run by a small group of people, registered at companies house.
“We’ve had a business viability report done. We’ve had architectural concepts completed.

“We made absolutely clear from the outset that this would include toilets within the facility for public use. It’s also disability compliant.

“The project is almost ready to go but unfortunately converting an old baths into a multi-use hall does require funding, so we are currently looking at local authority, town councils for collaboration.

“This is a town centre location where we can offer brand new facilities including toilets for public use.

“We need to look at these sort of projects in the pipeline not yet delivered but have the potential to deal with the issues we are looking at.”

This news was welcomed by the council’s chief officer for Streetscene Katie Wilby who said information about such projects would be helpful during consultation.

Officers said sites that despite local businesses being willing to support the strategy by making their facilities available some are not willing to advertise that their toilets can be used.

Mold East Cllr Chris Bithell (Lab) said he had noticed a lack of advertising of other public toilets available at local businesses, but also felt that it should be a council duty to provide facilities.

He said: “This has been a bit of a pointless exercise in the past, Welsh Government requiring us to produce a strategy.

“We all agree we need such provision. Elderly people, parents with small children, disabled people, shoppers, all these people need toilet facilities and we all accept that.

“But no-one is currently responsible for making that provision. We simply can’t afford to do this as we did in the past as we don’t have the funds with which to do it.

“One of the main reasons local authorities were set up in the first place in the 19th century was to provide public amenities because in those days people actually defecated and urinated in the street and we don’t want to go back to that.”

This followed similar comments about funding from Connah’s Quay Central Cllr Bernie Attridge (Ind), leader of the opposition but who was in the council’s cabinet when a number of facilities were closed due to budget pressures.

“Let’s be honest we got rid of the majority of public conveniences in Flintshire”, he said.

“Is this just a tick-box exercise the Welsh Government is saying we have to review them? Because if we put a list up of what the council’s priorities were, although toilets are important to people, surely it all comes down to what is available in terms of capital?”

Moving forward there will be a questionnaire for councillors, town and community councils then a 12 week consultation with the public before the strategy is finalised.

By Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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