A reporter debunked a councillor’s claims about the distance between two public toilets by walking from one to the other as part of a campaign run by her newspaper.
HTFP reported last month how the Bournemouth Echo is pressuring the Borough of Poole to reopen 15 shut public toilets – branding their closure an “embarrassment” to the seaside town.
Since the campaign’s launch, the authority has performed a partial U-turn and announced one of the closed blocks will be opened during summer months.
However at a recent council meeting John Rampton, cabinet member for environmental services, attempted to deflect criticism of some of the other closures by claiming one of the shut blocks, at Poole’s Baiter Park, were just a five-minute walk away by Google’s calculation from another open block at Dolphin Quays.
In order to test out this theory, Echo reporter Kate Wilson walked between the two and wrote a first-person piece for the paper about her experience.
The half-mile trek took her a total of 12 minutes.
Wrote Kate: “Now I consider myself to be a fit, young twenty-something who usually doesn’t get out of breath while walking. But even I would have struggled to make that journey in five minutes – although if you’re really bursting for the loo you might be able to run it in that time.
“Walking at a steady pace, in sensible shoes with an empty bladder it took me 12 minutes. But let’s be honest, the people who really need access to a public toilet aren’t going to be like me.
“They are the elderly, the disabled and parents with small children and I would suggest it would take them longer than me to walk from Baiter to Dolphin Quays.
“For the more sprightly of the group lets say 15 minutes, but realistically we’re probably looking at 20. Now when I really need to go the thought of having to hold on for 10, 15 or 20 minutes can be quite a daunting thought – especially if you are a visitor to the area and don’t really know how far the next available toilet is.”
The council blamed the closures on financial pressures, but has said there are ongoing discussions with third parties to reopen the toilets in a more sustainable way.
Kate concluded: “What the outcome will be from those discussions is unclear – but it doesn’t look like the toilets at Baiter Park will be opening any time soon.”