Visitor facilities under threat of Bradford Council budget cuts

Saltaire village has UNESCO World Heritage status but it may not have a public toilet for much longer. Picture by Andy Manning.
Saltaire village has UNESCO World Heritage status but it may not have a public toilet for much longer. Picture by Andy Manning.
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A World Heritage Site community that annually welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors is aiming to win support for a bid to retain the site’s only public toilets and tourist information point.

Bradford Council has identified that it must save £172,000 from its tourism budget in the coming year and as part of a review, consultants have recommended the closure of Saltaire’s toilets and visitor information centre in its Caroline Street car park.

The recommendation has been met with disappointment by local campaigners who claim the facilities are “essential” to the UNESCO-designated village.

The Saltaire Village Society (SVS) held a public meeting to discuss how the community may be able to intervene, and it hopes to secure the toilets on a long-term “peppercorn” rent from the council under a Community Asset Transfer arrangement.

After the meeting, the society explained that it did not have the funds to purchase the building from the council and subsequently expand and run it.

“Saltaire does not have a parish council, so no access to funding such as monies raised as a local precept and Community Infrastructure Levy.

“The SVS and other local stakeholders including Shipley College, Salt Foundation and Saltaire Stories have had discussions with Bradford Council about the possibility of SVS taking the public toilets on lease and using part of the building to provide some visitor services.”

But the task ahead is a large one, according to the society’s co-chairman, Pete Chambers, who said: “The SVS would need to raise funds to cover the £12,000 per annum running costs. That is why we are calling on all stakeholders and the community to get involved.”

Jane Bundle, the society’s secretary, added: “In order to achieve any measure of success we need volunteers to help prepare and submit grant applications, as well as legal advice, service development and project management, staff for the kiosk, fundraising to keep the toilets open, even skilled trades people to help transform the toilet block into a place befitting our UNESCO status.”

Maria Glot, who has run guided tours of Saltaire for 21 years, said it was “strange” that the future of the facilities was even in question.

She said: “We get so many groups of tourists here and the first thing they ask is where are the toilets? The council has got a tourism budget and if they are going to have one they have got to look at the most practical way of spending that.”

Ms Glot added: “I’m going to do everything in my power to support SVS to see if we can look at the viability of keeping the toilets open and adding an extra pod to make it into an information centre but they can’t do it without the help of Bradford Council.”

Two other council-run visitor information centres are also recommended for closure, in Haworth and Ilkley - with all three combined visited by almost 175,000 people per annum, on average over the last three years.

In Haworth, the Bronte Society has submitted a proposal to the council to take on the running of the village’s visitor information centre, while the local parish council is exploring options for continuing the provision of Haworth’s public toilets.

In Ilkley the parish council and other groups are discussing what means they have to continue its local provisions.

A final decision on the closure of the facilities is expected to be taken by Bradford Council next month.

A Bradford Council spokesperson, said: “Due to challenging budget cuts, there is on-going consultation with external partners across the district, to identify new delivery options for front-line visitor information. Recommendations will be put forward at the September meeting of the Council’s Executive Committee.”