To consider a report by the Director (NE) (reference 16/155).
The Cabinet considered a report by the Director (NE) (Reference 16/155) which sought approval to implement a Plan for the Provision of Public Conveniences in the Borough following an extensive public consultation exercise. The Portfolio Holder, Councillor Jenkinson advised that the Plan aimed to deliver a high quality, sustainable service fit for the 21st century, noting the three stage assessment process, and that people felt very strongly about some of the proposals. The Operations, Transport and Countryside Manager, Mr Thompson commented that there had been a significant response to the consultation (detailed in the report), which had also involved meetings with the County Council, National Park Authority, and various parish and town councils. As a consequence, checks and balances had been incorporated in the Plan, including the proposed use of the authority’s Community Asset Transfer framework when appropriate. The Chairman reminded the meeting that the report concerned the overall strategy, not individual facilities, and that no final decisions had yet been made. Other Members commented on the report. Councillor Cockerill asked that the timetable for completion of the Plan be brought forward to earlier than the end of March, so that in the case of most facilities, a course of action could be determined well before the start of the high tourist season. He commended a positive and realistic review. As a member of the North York Moors National Park Authority, Councillor Jeffels welcomed the report and the National Park’s engagement in the process, and hoped the National Park would be able to provide support to some parish councils to maintain public toilets in their villages. Councillor Allanson, who had chaired several reviews of public conveniences over the years, also endorsed the Plan, noting the Lake District National Park’s proactive approach to the provision of such facilities, which he hoped the North York Moors could emulate. He supported charging for public toilets to guarantee cleanliness, quality and safety. Councillor Nock was very critical of the Plan and the consultation exercise, commenting that feedback had been omitted and manipulated to support the Plan. He asked whether a key stakeholder such as the Mulgrave Estate had been approached, and argued that closure of public toilets in some areas of the Borough would put a fragile visitor economy at risk. In response, the Director, Mr Edwards defended the consultation analysis which had been carried out independently in the Council, and noted the very positive discussions ongoing with the North York Moors National Park Authority, Filey and Whitby Town Councils. The Plan aimed to keep as many public toilets open as possible whilst recognising that the way the service was delivered had to change, both to improve the quality of the facilities and reduce the cost to the Council. He also referred to other positive developments: the dowry given to Egton Parish Council to take over the public convenience in the village, the private sector providing the facility at Hunmanby Gap, and the recent Council decision to replace the poor Khyber Pass toilets with a new, state of the art facility. Councillor Mortimer made a plea for the small seaside resort facilities in the northern area which received large numbers of visitors every year, and should be given appropriate recognition in the Plan. Councillor Plant welcomed the engagement of the County Council’s Director of Public Health in the consultation, and given public toilets’ importance in this respect, he hoped that the County Council would provide financial assistance to this non-statutory service. Councillor Donohue-Moncrieff reminded the meeting that this was a Plan for the whole Borough, adding that the tourist industry in Hunmanby (in her ward) was booming without a public convenience in the village. However, she understood people’s concerns, and urged parish councils and local communities to engage creatively and constructively with the Borough Council to help secure a sustainable future for public toilets. The Chairman thanked both Cabinet and non-executive members for their comments.
RESOLVED that the Cabinet:
a) Approve the implementation of the plan for the provision of public conveniences, to be found at Appendix 3 to this report;
b) Note the progress of on-going discussions with Town and Parish Councils and approve the use of the Community Asset Transfer framework to facilitate this work stream;
c) Set a deadline date of 31 October 2016 for the receipt of detailed service devolution requests from Town and Parish Councils;
d) Request that Officers provide regular progress reports to the Council’s Cabinet as each phase of the plan is implemented.
The plan and associated actions set out how the Borough Council’s approach to the provision of public conveniences will be delivered over the next 5 years.