Petition to save Mere's Mouth toilet site grows to 1300 signatures
A petition with signatures from 1300 people including more than 40 traders is to be handed to the town council calling for a reversal of its decision to agree to the toilet block at Mere’s Mouth to be demolished - before a replacement is found at the site.
The petition, launched on last by Diss Publishing, which is next to the toilet block, has also been handed to Richard Bacon MP,
It quickly gained momentum in the town.
The protest follows concerns that the block may be replaced by retail units, a community scheme introduced instead ,whereby businesses open their toilets to the public, or a relocation of the toilet site itself.
The petition says: “Providing conveniences in a convenient place is part of maintaining an attractive and welcoming town.
“The town council has agreed to demolish the public toilets without a replacement in its place. This is a big mistake.”
At last week's full town council meeting, Birgitte Mager, who runs Diss Publishing, delivered a prepared speech.
She said: “The proposed closure is completely against the public wishes and defies all logic.
“This is the busiest place in Diss in terms of footfall and a natural place for people to use.”
Signatories include both independent retailers and chain stores, including Greggs,Scrivens Opticians, Barclays Bank, Poundland and Costa Coffee.
Independent traders include MyHills Pet & Garden, Mere Moments Cafe, Hemstock Jewellers and Istanbul Kebab House.
Traders from the Heritage Triangle, including Fairchild’s Tea Rooms and TW Gaze have also signed called for toilets to be retained at the Mere’s Mouth site.
Mrs Mager said: “It is the will of the tax-paying residents and the rate-paying business that public conveniences are kept at Mere’s Mouth.
“Businesses in Diss have given their overwhelming voice, through the petition to keep the toilets at the Mere. The tax paying residents have done the same.
“The demolition of the toilets perceived by many to be a symbol of the terminal decline of Diss may be a final straw in a never-ending saga of bad news.
“If the toilets are demolished without being rebuilt, many of us will feel let down by an authority that favours charities over legitimate businesses, businesses who employ the citizens of the town without subsidies, and many may say this is another nail in a very nailed coffin.”
The future of Mere’s Mouth toilets has been uncertain after South Norfolk Council decided the building was "uneconomical to repair".
It had allocated £80,000 to repair and renovate the building, which is also structurally linked to the former tourist information building, with its ownership then transferring to the town council.
It had hoped to hand over toilets across the district by March 31.
A later structural survey found that £80,000 was not enough to restore the toilets and the preferred option was that they were demolished, to which the town voted to agreed.
At the full council, councillors discussed the short time in which it had to make a decision and look into future options.
Neil Howard said: “The journey we are on started some while ago.
“When the Heritage Triangle project was in its early days, the district councilagreed to give us a fair chunk of money to helprefurbish the toilets as they are now.
“Part of the deal was the town council would take on the running of the toilets.
“The survey, however, showed they were in a shocking state. It makes ratherhorrendous reading as the building is literally sliding and twisting.
“The little tourist information building is actually falling apart,so I am told, and which is the anchor to stopthe toilet going into the Mere.
“We have been told a minimum £25,000 would need to be spent underpinning the building, the remaining amount not enough to refurbish it, and this would not be good use of public money.”
The meeting heard that demolishing the block would cost the council £20,000.
Councillors debate whether this would still leave £60,000 and were advised by district councillor Graham Minshull this was still the case, but the money “wouldn’t be there forever”.
The land on which the toilets are built is owned by the Parochial Charities.
Mayor Trevor Wenman said: “If we have toilets there, which may be the case as there is a groundswell of opinion, they won’t be the toilets as they are now, as they are not good enough.
“We don’t want a patched-up version of a 1970s toilet block. We want something that is going to last 40 years.
“If we need to borrow the money to do that, we would have to demonstrate that we have consulted with thepublic.
“When we have a plan, we can consult the public on it and see whether they are happy for us to borrow the money to do that. We are doing our best. We need to work in partnership with other people.”
Council leader Julian Mason, added: “We had no option but to let South Norfolk knock it down.
“One of our options in the meantime is to look at a community toilet schemeto get businesses in the town to potentially open up their toilets to the public.
“I have already spoken to other towns in the country who found this to be very successful.
Michael Crawford, said: “There are certain members of the public who have suggested the council is not listening. This is plainly not true.
“We are in a bind in that we may be losing our toilets, perhaps temporarily, perhaps not. We do not know.
“We are doing the best we can and we are doing it properly, within due process,and bearing in mind the whole of the town.”
More by this authorChris Morris