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Case Study: Richmond Upon Thames


Theme – Community Toilet Scheme

Additional signage is placed in areas where the scheme is operational. (Bichard 2006) VivaCity 2020The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames launched a Community Toilet Scheme in June 2005, and has since attracted 65 businesses to become members. In July 2006 at a British Toilet Association seminar, Phil Woolas, Minister for Local Government, backed the initiative when setting out a national strategy for public toilets. Richmond upon Thames community toilet scheme works in partnership with businesses like pubs, restaurants and shops to provide clean, safe and accessible toilets available to members of the public in addition to their own paying customers. The toilet facilities are available during the hours that participating businesses are open. Businesses who are members promote this service through stickers displayed on their doors and windows. Further information about the scheme, including a map and leaflets, is distributed through council offices, libraries, hospitals, GP surgeries and tourist information centres. In addition, the council have placed street signs in prominent areas directing people to toilets. Richmond upon Thames pays an annual contribution towards the toilets’ maintenance and cleaning costs. Currently, the local authority has 65 members involved in the scheme, of which 35% offer accessible toilets, and 25% offer provision for baby changing.


In addition to running the community toilet scheme, Richmond upon Thames maintains five Automatic Public Conveniences (APCs) and five purpose-built public toilets. The APCs cost 20p to use, whilst the purpose built facilities are free. The research team visited Richmond in August 2006 to include the scheme within the research, and audited 19 of the then available accessible toilets. Of the 50 design features available within the audit, one of the facilities in the scheme had incorporated 32 design features, the highest number of the 101 accessible toilets we audited. Another facility incorporated 29 of the design features and shared joint third position out of the 101 audits. In all, three of Richmond’s facilities involved in the community toilet scheme were in the top 10 of our toilet audits. Twelve of the toilets involved in the scheme had incorporated a minimum of 20 design features, and were in the upper 65 of 101 facilities. The facilities that incorporated the fewest design features (less then 20) were those operated by the local authority itself. All of the toilets we visited that are involved in the scheme were immaculately clean and well stocked. Most were small businesses that had clearly made an effort with the decoration to provide a pleasant environment. Some had included baby change facilities within their accessible toilets, and provided wipes and spare nappies. Whilst not recommended within guidance, such universal provision seemed appropriate due to these businesses’ predominant customer base of families with young children.


Overall, Richmond’s scheme can be seen to be a success and other local authorities around the country have adopted or are considering adopting a similarRichmond upon Thames council have incorporated details of their community toilet scheme within general direction signs. (Bichard 2006) VivaCity 2020 scheme. However, there are some wider ranging concerns that need to be considered. Due to business opening times, the provision of toilet facilities may be reduced dramatically in the evenings. In addition, those businesses that do offer facilities such as pubs, may not be accessible to those who are under the legal drinking age, people who do not include alcohol consumption within their social network or who do not wish to enter a pub on their own.


Because of this, community toilet schemes may not be suitable as the only form of provision for areas with a thriving evening economy. As the proprietors of the business, owners and manager have the right to refuse admission to their toilets, this does not guarantee that access is available to all, especially to those who maybe considered undesirable such as people who are homeless. Finally, businesses that offer standard toilet provision, but that do not offer toilet facilities that are accessible to people with disabilities, could be considered to be contravening the provisions of Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act.

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