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Diss Town Council welcomes "reminder" about obligations for public toilets

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Diss, Norfolk. 20 June 2018.Mere's Mouth toilet block which is facing demolition...Picture by Mark Bullimore Photography. (2644883)
Diss, Norfolk. 20 June 2018.Mere's Mouth toilet block which is facing demolition...Picture by Mark Bullimore Photography. (2644883)

Diss Town Council has welcomed what it describes as a "reminder" about obligations to provide public toilets under the Heritage Triangle funding agreement with South Norfolk Council.

But the troubled council has hit back by saying that South Norfolk Council has not fulfilled its obligations under the agreement, and called on Richard Bacon MP to put pressure on the district council to also "face up to its responsibilities."

According to a statement issued by South Norfolk Council this week, money for the provision of the toilets at Mere's Mouth was included in the £400,000 sum it gave the town council under an agreement signed in 2015.

A further £80,000 has been made available to do so, which the district council say is specifically for the Mere's Mouth site.

However, Diss town council said last week it was waiting for the results of new negotiations between South Norfolk Council and the landowners, Diss Parochial Charity, before it progressed any plans.

South Norfolk cabinet member, Kay MasonBillig, however, said the district council was in fact waiting for the town council to send plans before having any discussions with the landowners.

Meanwhile, it also emerged this week that the town council has yet to receive a scheduled payment of £162, 395 for the construction of the Heritage Triangle from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The money had been due by March 31.

In statement issued, after this week's Diss Express went to print, the town council said: "Diss Town Council (DTC) welcomes the District Council’s reminder of the commitments made by both DTC and South Norfolk Council (SNC) in 2015.

"If given the opportunity, DTC will fulfil its obligation to take on responsibility for the Mere’s Mouth toilets when SNC has fulfilled its obligations under the same agreement. The Town Council’s April decision was based solely on revised proposals put forward by SNC.

"This return to our mutual obligations made in 2015, effectively nullifies that April decision.

"The situation is further complicated by the existence of a lease between SNC and the landowner, Diss Parochial Charities.

"SNC gave £400,000 towards the construction in the Heritage Triangle. The conditions of the money being granted were that it could only be spent on the Heritage Triangle project and required public toilets to be provided in the Cornhall and the tourist information office to be moved from its kiosk site.

"The Town Council has been budgeting for the maintenance of the Mere’s Mouth toilets with the full intention of fulfilling its obligations.

"Two surveys commissioned by SNC lead them to conclude that their £80,000 budget was insufficient to rectify the identified structural problems and in their view the buildings were best demolished.

"DTC was offered the £80,000 to take on the refurbishment at their own risk. However, given that the experts at SNC had not identified the additional costs involved and were not prepared to take on the risk themselves, DTC concluded it was not appropriate to put that burden on the taxpayers of Diss.

"We would be happy to meet with Kay Mason-Billig to clarify the points where she feels there is confusion and to move the process forward.

"We do feel it is high time that the community in Diss, including our MP, were made aware of the facts surrounding the Mere’s Mouth toilets.

"DTC is very happy to “face up to its responsibilities” as Richard Bacon says. Perhaps he could also urge SNC to do the same."

South Norfolk Council and Richard Bacon MP have been approached for a comment.

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