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Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Closure worries on toilets' anniversary
Britannia posing with a giant penny
Britannia celebrates the public loo's birthday
A giant penny has been laid at the site where Britain's first public toilet opened 150 years ago in central London.

The public convenience was opened on 14 August 1852 opposite the Royal Courts of Justice in Fleet Street to combat disease through street fouling.

But in recent years loos across the capital have been shut down and there is concern that public hygiene standards are going down the pan.

Now mobile urinals are being used in the West End to try to solve the problem of late night drinkers urinating on the streets.


We have pioneered the open-air urinal to combat the disgusting habit of those urinating in the street

Judith Warner, Westminster City Council

Figures from the Audit Commission, released by the British Toilet Association (BTA), show 47% of public conveniences in metropolitan boroughs in England have been closed in the past eight years.

Built-environment expert Dr Clara Greed, who is undertaking research into toilets for the Nuffield Foundation, said: "The number of public toilets in the UK is limited and declining, particularly for women, who have about half as much provision as men to start with."

The Fleet Street toilet is now buried but its successor remains open in the Strand nearby boasting murals and piped jazz music.

One south east London public toilet was even put up for sale for conversion to a starter home.

'Telescopic' urinals

Westminster, which is London's busiest borough with its bars, restaurants, theatres and shops, has 32 public loos.

But only two of those are open 24-hours a day - one in Leicester Square, the other in Covent Garden.

In July Westminster City Council introduced mobile open-air urinals at weekends in Soho and Covent Garden.

Councillor Judith Warner, cabinet member for street environment, said: "We have pioneered the open-air urinal to combat the disgusting habit of those urinating in the street and we will continue to provide innovative methods in this field."

During autumn 2002, the council will introduce "telescopic" urinals which will rise out of the ground to cope with busy Friday and Saturday nights.

See also:

30 May 02 | England
22 May 02 | Business
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