Blackheath toilets down the pan

9:00am Sunday 22nd December 2013

BUSTING Blackheath shoppers will now not be able to spend a penny in the town centre as Sandwell Council is closing the last remaining public toilets.

Residents have been complaining the Henderson Way conveniences have been going down the pan for years but now they are being axed to save cash.

The loos have been the subject of petitions, political campaigns and recriminations between Labour and Conservative councillors.

Former Blackheath councillor and secretary of the Blackheath Business and Community Association Mary Docker is furious the plug has been pulled on toilets.

She said: “Sandwell Council have neglected to maintain this facility for years despite numerous complaints and press reports in the Halesowen News."

However, the writing was on the toilet wall when Mrs Docker handed in a petition about the state of them in 2011 and it was not even acknowledged by the council for two years.

UKIP is campaigning to keep the toilets open and members have been on the streets of Blackheath collecting signatures for a petition.

Brian Crockett, chairman of UKIP Sandwell said: “One of the joys of living in this area is Blackheath and its shops.

“It is not full of the generic High Street shops, like so many of our towns. The council should do all they can to encourage its use.

“The closing of these toilets will put people off coming, especially our older citizens who tend to need these facilities more often.”

However, Sandwell Council officers pointed to the £11,000 annual cost of cleaning the toilets and the close proximity to public conveniences at Blackheath Library for the closure. The council’s area director for street scene Steve Handley said: “The public toilets are at the age and type that they are difficult to maintain, cleanse and repair.

“They are also subject to regular, deliberate damage and anti-social behaviour which forces the council to close them on a regular basis.

He added: “The toilets are opened, closed and cleansed by Serco as part of its agreement with the council, at a cost of £11,000 per annum, including consumables.

“The provision of public toilet facilities is not a statutory function or legal requirement of the council. Blackheath Library, on the High Street is only 200 metres away from the site and offers free to use toilet facilities.”

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