Council's £240K 'top priority' plan for Highland toilets fails to mention closed Wick facility
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A Highland Council £240,000 plan to upgrade public toilets and other facilities to "help post-lockdown tourism" failed to mention Wick's vandalised and closed Whitechapel public convenience.
Councillor Allan Henderson, chair of the Communities and Place committee said of the plan: “The council is doing all that is can to provide a warm and safe welcome to people visiting or travelling within the Highlands.
"Our partnerships with communities in providing comfort schemes is working really well. We continue to invite more businesses to come forward and apply for the comfort scheme where there are gaps in public toilet provision among our communities."
The council currently operates 75 public conveniences throughout the Highlands and has 37 comfort scheme agreements with local businesses and community groups.
The proposal will see six Highland Council public conveniences receive investments in their facilities including £12K to introduce a paddle gate system at Ullapool for charging entrance to showers and a £21k investment at Aviemore, Kingussie and Grantown to introduce shower charging.
However, the plan failed to mention the Whitechapel toilets in Wick which were seriously vandalised and closed back in 2019. At this month's Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council (RBWCC) meeting, Councillor Raymond Bremner said: “It’s not acceptable that Wick as a town of 7500 people does not have an accessible public convenience.”
Local Highland councillors have been pressing for the Whitechapel Road public conveniences in the town centre to be brought back into use as soon as possible – or, as a temporary alternative, a reopening of the Camps toilets at the eastern end of High Street.
RBWCC chairperson Joanna Coghill had said: "Even with restrictions lifting, visitors to our town have no access to public loos. This is really inconvenient, and also inconsiderate from local residents' point of view, and will not encourage visitors to stop and enjoy our town."
"I understand the reason for the closure of Whitechapel Road – vandalism," Mrs Coghill said. "But they also closed the Camps toilets, as they were outdated, not up to standard and with much work required."
When asked why the Whitechapel facility was not mentioned in the plan, a Highland Council spokesperson said: "Discussions are ongoing about improvements to the PC [public convenience] in Wick. A structural survey is being carried out and a meeting has been scheduled to discuss the results of the survey."
They added that at the current time a "comfort scheme" is available at the nearby Norseman Hotel where the public can use its toilet facilities.
The council's investment plan in the Highlands will see new comfort schemes at: Rum Enterprise; Sea View Hotel, John O’Groats; Loch Ness Hub, Drumnadrochit; Coach House Bar and Restaurant Dornoch, and Dornoch Castle (while the council’s public toilets are being refurbished); Salen, Acharacle; Traigh Beach composting toilet; and Ardnamurchan Natural History and Visitor Centre.
The following providers are being currently being considered for inclusion in the council’s comfort scheme: Dalwhinnie service station; Canna Café; Staxigoe Village Hall; Altnaharra Hotel; Roybridge Hotel; and Cleadale, Eigg composting toilet.
Vandalism repairs are being made at Muir of Ord public toilets at a cost of £11,658 and upgrades will happen at Dornie Hall public conveniences along with those at Storr.
Funding applications are also being submitted to the Better Places Fund to support additional comfort schemes Highland wide including:
- proposed counter installations (Castletown, Clachtoll, Durness, Whin Park, Kylesku, Scourie, Tongue and Uig);
- proposed additional charging installed (Achnasheen, Dingwall, Dunvegan, Portreee and Smoo Cave)
- a new modular unit at Glenmore (Aviemore) and a composting facility at Souters (Cromarty).
Investment in new litter bins throughout the region was also in the proposal with an enhanced waste service costing £180K. Of the eight staff that Highland Council will employ to keep "hotspot areas clear of litter and refuse" the nearest to Caithness will be based in Brora.