Newcastle crime crackdown could help with bid to address 'inadequate' public toilet shortage

The Bigg Market toilets
The old Bigg Market toilets have since been turned into a wine bar -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

New efforts to crack down on anti-social behaviour in Newcastle city centre could help address a ‘totally inadequate’ lack of toilets, it has been hinted.

The loss of public conveniences in the city centre has been a source of complaint for years after Newcastle City Council was forced to shut down toilets as a cost-cutting exercise, while a subsequent ‘use our loos’ scheme in which businesses opened up their facilities has since been dropped. There have been warnings that the shortage has been particularly harmful to the elderly, the disabled, and people with bladder and bowel conditions whose journeys to the city centre have been made more difficult as a result.

The council opened two new toilets earlier this year, the first time that has happened since 2010, and a city health boss has also expressed hopes that the ‘use our loos’ promotion could be revived one day. Alice Wiseman, Newcastle’s new public health director, told councillors last week that it was not yet realistic for city centre businesses to reopen their toilets to the general public – as the scheme had previously resulted in some attracting anti-social behaviour and extra staff having to be hired to monitor the WCs.

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But, she expressed hope that the recent launch of a new City Safe partnership by the council, Northumbria Police, and NE1’s street rangers could help tackle those problems. That initaitve, which will be based out of the City Library, has been designed to combat crime and anti-social behaviour linked to begging and rough sleeping.

Ms Wiseman told the council’s health scrutiny committee: “It may well be that, as that progresses, and things improve in the city that there is an opportunity to revisit that [use our loos] in some way. But at the moment this is the position we are in.”

Committee chair and Lib Dem councillor Wendy Taylor said the issue needed to remain on city bosses’ agenda. Newcastle’s Elders Council told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that having better access to toilets “will give us a bit more confidence to go into town but current provision is totally inadequate”.

A spokesperson added: “It limits the ability of many older people to use the public spaces we are entitled to use and this seems discriminatory. Planning of city centres should have age friendliness at its heart in line with demographic shifts to ageing.

“This would help the whole community, not just older people. We welcome any new initiatives the council has planned and are always happy to work alongside them to give our perspective.”

NE1, the city’s business improvement district company which managed the ‘use our loos’ initiative, was contacted for a comment.

In March this year, the council announced the opening of new, accessible public conveniences located at the Civic Centre and the Northern Stage theatre. The £60,000 cost of the fully accessible loos was met by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ Changing Places Fund and delivered in partnership with Muscular Dystrophy UK.