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Call for new toilet debate

UNISEX toilets need to be put back on the agenda for a new decision, a Bognor Regis councillor has demanded.


Cllr Francis Oppler said the matter of replacing single sex toilets with unisex ones – like those planned for the town’s seafront – should be debated by councillors.


His call for the matter to be referred back to Arun District Council’s cabinet of senior members was ruled out by monitoring officer Liz Futcher.


She said it couldn’t be referred back because no notice was given by Cllr Oppler about his request. But, because no decision was taken by councillors about the toilets, the six month ban on debating the issue again did not apply and it could be raised again at another meeting.


As reported, councillors are unhappy the decision to go ahead with unisex toilets has been made by their officers rather than themselves after a debate.


Cllr Oppler (LD, Orchard) said: “What we are saying is that the environment and leisure working group voted for the matter to be referred back to cabinet.


“What we had was that the chief executive made the decision for the cabinet and it should be the cabinet.


“It’s a matter of policy, not an operational matter, as the toilets’ closure have been.


“This is about getting the Tory cabinet off the hook so they don’t have to make an unpopular decision.”


Cllr Dr James Walsh (LD, Beach) said the situation was ‘quite extraordinary’.


“The working group made a specific request to cabinet for a policy decision on moving towards unisex toilets. The cabinet went through and accepted all of the recommendations from the working group with the single exception of the one dealing with unisex toilets,” he said.


He stated Nigel Lynn, the council’s chief executive, was wrong to tell the cabinet the constitution set out that the matter was for officers to decide.


He said: “It is a policy issue and we, as elected members, are the ones who will carry the can if we move to unisex toilets across the district.”


Cllr Paul English (C, Felpham E) said: “I do support this. We should make the decision as to whether the policy should be there.”


Cllr Barbara Oakley (C, Middleton) said: “I believe this is a policy matter. It should be decided by the council.”


Cllr Vicky Rhodes (C, Courtwick) said: “This is totally unacceptable. I don’t see why we have to do this. The general public don’t want them. They see them as a way of saving money.”


Cllr Daniel Purchese (LD, Beach) said unisex toilets raised strong views on both sides of the argument.


Arun cabinet member for technical services Cllr Stephen Haymes said unisex toilets were accepted at West Park and the Hotham Park Cafe.They had also been used 280,000 times in a year at St Martin’s in Chichester.


Other councils around the country were moving towards them. “We need to keep up with the trend. We want toilets for the future, not the 19th century,” he added.

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