Belper public toilets to re-open after protests

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Public toilets are to re-open in a Belper street - amid a squabble about rates.

After widespread protests about their closure in March, the Town Council will take on responsibility for the block on Strutt Street.

But questions were raised when it was revealed that it would have to pay £1,147 rates annually to Amber Valley Borough Council, which opted to shut them to save cash.

Town cllr Erik Johnsen told the meeting:”I am amazed we are paying rates for this.”

And town cllr Dave Fisher added:”The rates seem rather over-priced.”

Town council leader John Nelson, who organised the loo rescue plan, said he was surprised by the figure and queried it.

“The rates are commercial business rates and not like those for houses. I said to them ‘my house is not that much,’” he told a special meeting of the Town Council.

Members voted unanimously to re-open the toilets at a total cost of around £4,500, about half the figure it cost the borough council. Part of the savings come from a deal in which the Co-op agreed to unlock the toilets every morning.

Town Council staff will lock them at 6pm every night and will also take on cleaning duties. Cllr Nelson warned:”If we get vandalism, we will get another bill.”

Cllr Alan Broughton said:”Thank heavens for people power. At last commonsense is prevailing tonight.

“We are trying to push ourselves as a tourist town. But to say that and close toilets is a farce.”

During the public speaking session, several people attended to criticise the toilet closure. One person said public loos should be provided in the bus station.

Another resident said he had just returned from a holiday in a small town in Shropshire, which provided “most superb public toilets with automatic hand-washing and drying facilities.”

And Labour Party workers said they had questioned 300 people, finding that all wanted toilets opened because it was “an issue of dignity and self-respect.”