To Pay or Not to Pay? – That May be the Question

By Jane Cruickshank / January 12, 2024
The two businesses take pride in the building which is freshly painted complete with pink door

COULD a card-payment entry system be the answer to Stonehaven’s urgent need for a beach toilet?

Aberdeenshire offers the second highest number of conveniences in Scotland, with 70 public toilets. Of these, 10 are community run schemes and nine are operated via a comfort partnership where businesses are paid to allow public access to their facilities.

Needing the loo is a basic human need that will cost our local authority £657,700 this financial year.

And while Stonehaven is as well served as any community in the Shire, the lack of provision at the beach, where tourist flock for their fish and chips and ice-creams, was the subject of a long discussion at this week’s meeting of Stonehaven and District Community Council.

Molly’s is not a public toilet

Member Julie Lindeman highlighted the plight of Molly’s Cafe Bar owner Janice Langdon and her staff,who were beleaguered by a constant stream of people wanting to use their toilet.

”Is there any way we can look at this, as it is not acceptable,” she said.

”Every half hour she has people asking to use the toilets. Molly’s is not a public toilet.”

Mrs Lindeman said the caravan park also faced similar issues.

And she added: ” For a town that is promoted as a tourist destination, the lack of toilet facilities is really not acceptable.”

What are the options?

Aberdeenshire Council operate two public toilets Stonehaven – in the town centre at Margaret Street and at the harbour.

Chair David Lawman asked councillors if the Town Hall toilets could be made accessible – then the Margaret Street ones could close and the beach block opened.

Cllr Sarah Dickinson said she absolutely agreed a solution was needed and said she had already mooted the possibility of using the Town Hall – but it was also a venue used for private hire.

Jim Stephen, who is also chair of the Stonehaven Town Partnership, STP, said either a community group or local businesses should take on the beach toilets. But he added the sheer size of the block made it expensive to clean – around £1,600 each month.

Could a payment system be installed?

A member of the public at the meeting suggested a card payment entry system to cover the cost of running the toilet. This approach is in use in other parts of the country – notably the Highlands.

And while Tuesday’s meeting of SDCC heard this was possibly contrary to current Council policy – they also learned the Shire’s public convenience policy is under review.

Subsequent to the meeting, our Councillors have already made enquiries.

Cllr Dawn Black told The Bellman: ”I spoke with the Business Services Director today and he says the updated strategy will be coming back to committee in the next few months.

”He has asked officers to look at the option of charging for use of the facilities, so this option should be included in the papers when they come.”

Cllr Sarah Dickinson added: ”Like Cllr Black, I looked for an update from officers today about whether the consideration of alternative technologies will include looking at options like a card payment system.

”I was advised that it would, which I welcome. I do think we need to look at all the avenues available as we look forward.”

suggested further reading…

Stonehaven is on the map for its public toilets – did you know about the Great British Toilet Map?

And for a great discussion document, Public Toilets – How communities are responding to the closure of
public toilets
by the Community Ownership Support Service is excellent