Today’s columnist, Fraser Wilson: City convenience stores

Sheffield City Council is to close five more public toilets including the one on Devonshire Green. Picture: Andrew Roe
Sheffield City Council is to close five more public toilets including the one on Devonshire Green. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Last week the Star reported that, under new council plans, Sheffield is to be left with “just two public toilets”.

Cue agonising images of 550,000 of us queuing up outside one solitary overwhelmed cubicle for the chance to relieve ourselves – cross your legs, folks.

Let’s read on, though. On average, “the toilets are only used on average five times a day”, and one poor unloved facility in Birley Moor Road had just 357 visits in a whole year.

So they’re not quite the indispensible convenience (literally) that perhaps they might have been in days gone by.

Each toilet costs – get this – £20,000 a year to maintain (and, from the single hasty research trip I made before writing this, “maintain” is an ambitious word).

You have to spend 20p on the way in before you can spend another one inside, but even with that accumulated wealth, each visit ends up costing nearly £10 once you factor in that maintenance.

A good use of council money when there isn’t nearly enough council money to go around?

The council don’t think so, and explain it sensibly. “It does not make economic sense”, and while “public toilets are an essential convenience”, it’s “simply not cost-effective” to keep this sort of place open. Quite right too.

By the way, it tickles me that, if the plans go ahead, the only remaining council-run public toilet will be “in the layby on the A6102 at Deepcar junction”.

Road trip, anyone? I know that laybys can be the hub of all kinds of social activity, but really?

The article then reports that “shoppers have said the lack of loos puts them off visiting the city centre”.

Now come on. Isn’t that where you’ll find the largest concentration of public loos in the whole city?

Pay attention, shoppers. Look in your shops. Loos everywhere.

Doesn’t almost every large store, and a decent number of smaller ones, have facilities that frankly put outdoor bogs to shame?

Scented soap, frequent cleaning, those round spotlights in the ceiling that make it feel like the foyer of a grand hotel. Loo luxury if ever I saw it.

Really, I don’t think it’s such a hassle that Devonshire Green loos might close if, within a few minutes’ walk of there, you can find others great and small, clean and comfy, just waiting for your discerning custom.

And even more convenient: get the shopping done too while you’re at it.