Peterborough Unlimited: ‘We must be consulted over toilets’

The PT’s Peterborough Unlimited campaign is highlighting issues faced by the disabled community in Peterborough. Leading campaigner Julie Fernandez is writing a regular column as part of that campaign...

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 12:20 pm
Wheelchair user Graham Barnes accessing one of the few city centre toilets.

On July 28, I attended a full council meeting to ask a question about one of the issues we are raising for the Peterborough Unlimited campaign regarding more accessible toilets in the city centre.

I asked: “At the last meeting of full council, the leader stated that he had tasked council officers to look into the provision of public toilets for the city centre. Can we have an update on this. Where will the toilets be situated, please?”

Cllr Steve Allen replied: “It is a commitment to look at additional toilet facilities in our city.

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Julie Fernandez

“We are currently in contact with two companies that offer toilet solutions to ascertain their specification and potential costs, if we were to increase our toilet provision in areas that are currently not provided.

“You have asked where they will be sited. That’s not been decided yet, but we are looking.

One would have thought in locations at perhaps Laxton Square, St John’s Square or Cathedral Square being prime consideration.

“A correct request from the leader and audit of businesses earlier this month revealed that 30 businesses have toilets available to customers.

“As you know there are server stores and bars in the city that offer toilet facilities.”

My follow-up question: “As a full-time wheelchair user my experience with toilets in various venues isn’t necessarily the best. Which organisations and disabled people have you been in consultation with to ensure that they are in the right place and have the correct facilities to ensure that we don’t retrospectively have to spend unnecessary money like we have here at Sand Martin House?”

Cllr Allen’s response: “I think what you are looking at are costs and locations – both of those have to be taken into consideration, but we are committed to having fully accessible toilets to cater for those with disability – that is a commitment.”

What has become apparent from Cllr Allen’s responses is the word “if”.

He said: “If we were to increase our toilet provision.” The word ‘if’ says so much here!

Then he mentions that PCC undertook an audit into local restaurants and bars and their facilities. We don’t know if those are toilets in general or disabled specific toilets. Not all restaurants want customers to come in just to use their toilets and, to be honest, it can be awkward asking when you are worried, they might say no, and you are desperate to use the loo.

Most striking for me was that in Cllr Allen’s second response he didn’t reply to my question of which organisations and disabled people have you been in consultation with. It is vital that we are consulted and have honest discussion with them about what is needed by us the disabled community so that the outcome is both useful, used and, once again, not wasting our money in having to retrospectively correct those toilets.

Let’s not forget that PCC have spent £17k in sorting out issues to Sand Martin House!