New Blake toilets bid divides council

9:11am Saturday 19th August 2006

By Andy Whelan

BRIDGWATER councillors are divided over plans to build new public toilets in Blake Gardens - with some fearing it will attract drug addicts and 'cottagers'.

Sedgemoor District Council favours redeveloping the existing conveniences in Blake Gardens over building a new block on Salmon Parade.

But some of the town's councillors are furious at the prospect, largely because the toilets were closed only 18 months ago due to vandalism and neglect.

Cllr John Turner said: "We are likely to get people called cottagers who are homosexuals that visit public toilets and meet their friends for unsavoury things.

"It has been a problem there in the past because it is out of the way, whereas it would not happen around the Town Bridge because it is on a main road."

Cllr Gill Slocombe, who worked in the library next to the park toilets, witnessed the conveniences become a haven for drug users and gangs.

She feels that police do not have the resources to constantly watch over public toilets and CCTV cameras will be ineffective because they cannot see what happens inside.

"There were major problems in the past and drug taking was prominent. They were repeatedly smashed up and badly damaged.

"I worry about children and that is a concern that has come from talking to police and people that used them. By bringing toilets back to Blake Gardens we are bringing a serious issue back again," she added.

The only public toilets open in the town are located in Penel Orlieu. Bridgwater Town Council voted in favour of revamping the existing Blake Gardens toilet block at its meeting on Thursday (August 10).

Cllr Philip Smeed was one of those that favoured Blake Gardens, arguing that conveniences in Salmon Parade would not be in keeping with the town's heritage.

"As far as building a toilet on Town Bridge, the only thing it could be in keeping with is another public toilet. All parks should have public facilities," he said.

Sedgemoor District Council Spokeman Claire Faun said the authority is likely to choose Blake Gardens and a decision was likely towards the end of the year.


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