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What’s the future of public toilet provision in the Sid Valley?

  • by JW

“Publicly owned toilets could soon become a thing of the past.” [Comment to VGS]


At the Annual Meeting of Sidmouth Town Council earlier this month, most of the discussion was about toilet provision (see below) and the difficult decision to take over from EDDC the Long Park but not the Sidford or Sidbury toilets. 

This will mean that there will be no public toilets in Sidbury or Sidford. 

STC already runs the public toilets at the Arches at a cost in excess of £35k annually – as outlined earlier in the year when looking at how Sidmouth Town Council spends public money [and with the budget for the coming year here]

The new commitment at Long Park might well double this cost to the Town Council. 

As a commentator suggests:

“Most people don’t know, or care who runs them as long as they are open and clean; however, publicly owned toilets could soon become a thing of the past. It’s at least as contentious an issue as cemeteries; however members of the public would need to be sharp eyed to spot this item if they wished to express a view.”

Here’s the decision from the minutes of the council meeting of 13th May:

22 Transfer of Public Conveniences from District Council to Town Council

Members were asked to consider an email/report received from Doug Stanton MRICS Project Manager Estates, East Devon District Council, which outlined the potential transfer of some public conveniences to the Town Council. Members discussed the existing facilities, those still open and those which had been closed for some time. Consideration was given to the potential future cost of running the non-statutory service and location of each existing EDDC facility being offered.


Long Park – Sidmouth Town Council acknowledged ownership of the property and would agree take over responsibility for maintenance and cleaning of the block at the beginning of the 2025/26 financial year.

Sidbury – Sidmouth Town Council does not wish to receive transfer of this block and was content for EDDC to release it to its nearest neighbour; Sidbury Village Hall.

Sidford – Sidmouth Town Council has no objection to the District Council’s intention to consider options for this site and market it for sale and/or redevelopment. 

The public toilet block at Long Park – image Google Maps

In his monthly piece for the Herald, the council’s chair reiterated the decisions of Sidmouth Town Council to take over Long Park toilets:

The Town Council were offered Long Park and Sidbury toilets and were informed of EDDC’s intention to offer the Sidford toilets for sale for redevelopment… Whilst at first sight it might seem obvious that we should accept what is being offered, the reality is the cost of running toilets is huge and were we to take on one we don’t currently manage, the cost of doing so would be borne by the Council Tax payer… I am sure most of us use the facilities from time to time and appreciate the service. Please let me know if you have any comments or thoughts.

In the meantime, as for what local government can do long term, there were proposals from central government back in 2017 for business rates “Relief for Public Toilets”. Whilst politicians were warned that public toilets are an ‘absolute necessity’, these plans were shelved because of the 2019 election – and have not resurfaced. 

Then in 2019, councils were urged to invest in public toilets and the following year, a minister confirmed over 500 new accessible toilets were to be built. 

But this has not been enough. The city of Exeter has only ten public toilets across its jurisdiction – and East Devon District Council had to put together its Public Toilet Review in 2022 to try and square the circle of funding these assets.

Meanwhile, there are attempts to provide new services – but, as reported in the Herald, objectors still want to flush the Sidmouth pool toilet plan

East Devon District Council has submitted plans for a new toilet block consisting of one unisex toilet, one accessible toilet and a changing places toilet. If approved, it would also include the replacement of the existing secure cycle parking. But objectors have criticised the design, even though the council has now submitted revised drawings.

And amongst the objectors have been the Sidmouth Cycling Campaign, concerned about the bicycle parking at Sidmouth Swimming Pool

Finally, there are also the stalled and controversial plans at the Drill Hall – and selling a ‘loo with a view’

So, will we have to accept that future provision of such amenities will have to be paid for – as in the epithet “to spend a penny”?