£71k refurbishment of public toilets sparks row in Northumberland town
Plans to spend £71,000 refurbishing public toilets in a Northumberland seaside town are causing a stink for some residents.
Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Town Council decided to refurbish the toilet block at Church Point more than a year ago, allocating £20,000 in its 2018-19 budget and the same for the coming year.
However, the costs of the project have escalated, meaning the town council needed to find another £31,000 if it wanted to go ahead with the scheme.
This sparked concern among some residents, with an online petition, ‘Say no to £71,000 of our money being spent on derelict toilets’, being signed by almost 250 people, and 40 members of the public attending an extraordinary meeting of the town council on Wednesday, January 30.
At this meeting, despite objections, members agreed to fund the shortfall from the current year and next year’s allocation of section 106 funding, however, the council will be discussing the matter further – in private – at another extraordinary meeting tonight (Thursday, February 14).
A statement from the town council said: “This strategic public-toilet block is in need of being renovated, brought up to a modern standard and made accessible for the disabled.
“As the service provider, Northumberland County Council, was unable to commit the capital expenditure, the town council included the project in the 2018-19 budget and increased that budget for 2019-20 after agreeing the scheme and receiving approval from the county council.
“Following a tender exercise, it became apparent that the required works were more extensive then originally anticipated.
“Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Town Council is keen to progress regeneration of the town and provide services for visitors and the elderly, which fits well with the Town Plan priorities, following on from the first plan where public-toilet provision was the number one priority in the public consultation exercise.”
A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “We currently open, close and clean the new toilets on Front Street.
“Some time ago, we were approached by Newbiggin Town Council which asked whether we had any objections to them investing in the disused block at Church Point. We advised that we had no objections as long as they also took on full responsibility for the facility.
“As part of ongoing discussions, we told the town council if it was to refurbish the disused toilets at Church Point, we would provide the same service at the refurbished block, provided that they met all other costs.
“It is our understanding that the town council has allocated £71,000 to undertake the refurbishment works.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service