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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February 2005, 08:39 GMT
Futuristic p-pod to amaze drinkers
Image comparing alleyway running off Shaftesbury Square with the new-fangled Urilift
From this alleyway... to this gleaming futuristic 'pee pod'
A futuristic toilet in the heart of a prime Belfast nightlife area may provide part of the answer to the problem of street urination.

Looking like a simple manhole cover by day, at night the cylindrical urinal booth will slowly rise up out of the ground in time for late night revellers pouring out of local pubs.

A common sight in laid back Dutch cities, it remains to be seen whether the men of Belfast will be more shy and retiring when it comes to the new urinals.

The six-feet-high stainless steel hydraulic "pee pods" were first used in London in 2002 and have been successfully installed in a number of towns across the UK.

At the moment, the proposed site at Shaftesbury Square is marked out on the ground with a painted rectangle, but it is expected to be installed within weeks.

The area is one of Belfast's most popular areas for nightlife, but up to now, public toilet facilities in the area have been limited to a few dingy alleyways behind pubs.

The urinal's proposed location, at Shaftesbury Square underneath the big video screen
A painted rectangle marks the spot where the urinals will be installed
The urinal booths can be used by three men at a time.

While unfortunately there are no facilities available for women, a Belfast City Council spokesman said the designers were working to tackle this.

At an estimated cost of 30,000 including installation, the so-called Urilift plugs directly into the sewerage system.

Innocent passers-by need not worry that they will suddenly find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and be cast into the air, as the facility will be clearly marked and a warning sound will go off to alert people.

Its makers say the system is completely self cleaning and odour free, with automatic flushing and disinfecting.

The council has not yet finalised the hours when the pop-up toilet will be above ground, but it hopes it will be available at times when drinkers' needs are most pressing.

Police do not have specific statistics on public urination, which comes under the wide-ranging category of indecent behaviour.

However, late night revellers are warned that such offences are reported by police with a view to prosecution.

For some, this new alternative to alleyways and shop fronts is bound to come as a great relief.

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