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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 13:17 GMT
Guide to public toilets launched
Public toilets
Campaigners say better toilets will improve Britain's image abroad
A guide to help local authorities provide better public toilets has been unveiled by the government.

It suggests paying businesses to open loos to non-customers, and "SatLav" schemes where details of the nearest toilets are sent by text message.

Communities Minister Baroness Andrews admitted: "Some people may find the whole idea of a strategic guide on public toilets funny."

But Help the Aged said a shortage of loos was "devastating" for the elderly.

Over 40% of UK public toilets have closed over the past decade, according to the charity.

'Bladder leash'

The government document - titled Improving Public Access to Better Quality Toilets - suggests ways in which local authorities can "halt the decline of the great British public loo".

It highlights Westminster council's SatLav initiative, where mobile phone users pay 25p to receive a text message with details of nearby facilities and opening times.

toilet sign
First impressions can be gained in the toilets on arrival and it is these that get taken home by visitors
Richard Chisnell
The British Toilet Association

Richmond upon Thames's Community Toilet Scheme - which has seen 70 local businesses open up their amenities to the public - is also singled out.

The guide also suggests that councils use the planning system to secure funds from developers. Brent council in north-west London secured 70,000 for six new toilet sites as part of the planning agreement for the reconstruction of Wembley Stadium.

Changes in the law will soon give local authorities the power to charge for entrance to public toilets.

Baroness Andrews said: "For decades, the provision of good municipal facilities was a matter of considerable civic pride.

"But for many years we seem to have gone backwards. We need to reverse this decline."

Richard Chisnell of the British Toilet Association said improving loos would boost tourism.

He added: "First impressions can be gained in the toilets on arrival and it is these that get taken home by visitors."

Help the Aged's Pamela Holmes, said she welcomed the report, but called on the government to make it mandatory for councils to provide facilities.

She said: "More than half of older people find that a lack of public toilets prevents them from going out as often as they like.

"The effect of this is to keep many older people on a 'bladder leash' - with shrinking social involvement and increased isolation an inevitable and dangerous effect."

Toilet closures isolate elderly
27 May 07 |  Health
MPs call for more public toilets
30 Mar 07 |  UK Politics

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