North Yorkshire has lost a quarter of its public toilets in the past decade

There are 26 per cent fewer council-run toilets in North Yorkshire than there were a decade ago, new figures have revealed.

The provision of public toilets has decreased by almost 10 per cent in the former Scarborough borough area, including Filey and Whitby, compared to a decade ago. Until 2013, there were more than 30 public toilets across the borough but as of 2023, the number had reduced to 28 or fewer of which 12 are fee-charging.

A similar decline in the number of public toilets has taken place across the whole of North Yorkshire amid cutbacks, reorganisations, and rising operating costs. The now-amalgamated borough and district councils operated 112 public conveniences across the county in 2013, but ten years later in 2023 that figure had dropped to 82.

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The information was revealed by a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

Ravine Road public toilets, Filey.Ravine Road public toilets, Filey.
Ravine Road public toilets, Filey.

North Yorkshire Council’s assistant director for environmental services, Michael Leah said: “Over the last 20 years the demand for public toilets has changed, and we have been quick to respond, especially in town centres where the private sector has increased the number of toilets on offer.

“There is a greater need for Changing Places toilets for people with profound needs. Over the last five years, five new Changing Places toilets have been installed along the coast, providing much-need provision for residents and visitors.”

According to the BBC, UK councils stopped maintaining around 13 per cent of public toilets between 2010 and 2018. It comes as local authorities face increasing costs to maintain the public facilities,.

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Whitby Town Council, which has responsibility for facilities in the town, recently reporting that its income from public toilets had gone down from £55,000 to just £15,000 a year – a decrease of 72 per cent. As a result, town councillors voted to increase the fees for using its public toilets to 50p.

However, concerns have been raised about the potential impact that cuts to facilities could have on tourism and local businesses, as some members of the public have said they might be deterred from visiting areas with poor provision.

The FOI request also revealed that this year North Yorkshire Council has budgeted almost £490,000 for maintaining its public toilets, excluding capital works, whereas last year it spent around £430,000.

Speaking to the LDRS, the assistant director for environmental services, Michael Leah, said: “We have also invested £1.5 million on refurbishing existing facilities and building three new blocks along the coast as part of our commitment to providing high-quality toilets, most recently at Scarborough’s St Nicholas Gardens, the Ravine and County Park at Filey.

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“In light of the ongoing pressure on council budgets, we have had to make difficult choices. We recognise how valued the service is and in places, we have sought to offset operating costs by introducing charges and, as far as able to, not reduce provision in an area.”

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