Updated public convenience strategy seeks community support to maintain access to Aberdeenshire loos

A new approach to the ongoing provision of public toilets in Aberdeenshire that aims to reduce costs, increase links with communities and standardise opening hours is to take effect this summer.

Aberdeenshire Council currently operates 81 public conveniences; the second highest number for any Scottish local authority.

Maintaining so many toilets is a significant commitment for the council against a backdrop of ever-tighter budgets, costing almost a million pounds a year but leaving little scope for investment.

To allow the council to maintain access to public toilets and to raise standards, the authority’s Public Convenience Strategy was updated earlier this year.

The strategy aims to reduce costs by around a third while maintaining access to the majority of existing facilities, and identifying alternative local provision where toilets are to be closed.

Opening hours for public toilets are going to be standardised across Aberdeenshire, with facilities open from 8am-8pm in the summer season (April-September) and from 8am-6pm in the winter (October-March). In some cases, this represents an increase in opening hours.

Funding has been identified to refurbish public toilets in Laurencekirk and Mintlaw and options are currently under consideration.

One of the biggest costs for the council is the staffing of attended facilities. It can cost more than £50,000 a year to run an attended toilet, with charges to the public covering only a tiny fraction of this. By contrast, an unstaffed toilet costs just under £8,000 to run.

As part of the strategy review, a number of sites will remain open but will no longer have an attendant. Further details of which facilities will be affected will be provided in due course.

The council currently operates a number of ‘comfort partnerships’, whereby local businesses or facilities make their own toilet facilities available for use by the public for free. Participating property owners are given a small payment by the council for this purpose.

The council hopes to extend the network of these partnerships and would be keen to hear from anybody who may be interested in forming one for the benefit of their local community. 

The following facilities may be closed but it is hoped that an alternative local partnership might be found:

 

Town Location New arrangement
Fetterangus Ferguson Street Close, with possible community alternative
Maud Station Road Close, with possible community alternative
New Deer Main Street Close, with possible community alternative
Pennan Public Hall Community-run provision available
Strichen Bridge Street Close, with possible community alternative
Auchenblae Mackenzie Avenue Close, with possible community alternative
Boddam Harbour Street Close, with possible community alternative
Collieston Low Town Close, with possible community alternative
Fettercairn Main Street Close, with possible community alternative
Fyvie Cuminestown Road Close, with possible community alternative
Glenshee Car park Close, with possible community alternative
Gourdon  Boath Park Close, with possible community alternative
Longside Main Street Close, with possible community alternative
Pitcaple Rowan Tree car park Close, with possible community alternative
St Cyrus Ecclesgreig Road Close, with possible community alternative

The review also took account of a number of sites that had particularly low use or are in poor condition, where refurbishment costs would be prohibitive. As a result, the following arrangements are being put in place at the locations below. 

 

Town  Location New arrangement
Crimond  Logie Drive Close
Cuminestown  Auchry Road Close
Echt  Pleasure Park  Close
Hatton Station Road Close
Inverallochy Allochy Road Close
New Pitsligo High Street Comfort partnership in place
Tarland Melgum Road Comfort partnership in place
Stonehaven Beach (seasonal) Will not re-open for summer season.
Possible community asset transfer
Turriff  The Haughs (seasonal) Possible community involvement being considered
Stuartfield Knock Park (seasonal) Will not re-open for the summer season. Posssible community involvement being considered.
     

Further details and timescales for any closures will be released in due course, subject to further discussion with interested parties and committee decisions where required.

The remaining 58 facilities across Aberdeenshire will continue to be open to the public.

Head of Property and Facilities Management Allan Whyte said: “While we appreciate the benefit of a rural public toilet to visitors and local residents, maintaining such a large network across Aberdeenshire is an increasing challenge.

“The fact is, several of our facilities are in poor condition and a number are rarely used, and we have to make sure we are making the best use of the funding available. 

“By reducing the overall number of council-run facilities and increasing the number of community-run toilets, this will allow us to continue to increase the quality of provision across the area over the coming years.”

“Where there is a strong desire to maintain a facility in a community, we’d encourage early conversation with officers to discuss the possibilities and the support the council may be able to provide.”

Individuals or community groups wishing to explore the possibility of establishing a ‘comfort partnership’ for the provision of local toilets should contact andrew.meechan@aberdeenshire.gov.uk for more information.