Personal tools
You are here: Home VivaCity2020 Toolkit Toilet Case Studies Case Study: Sheffield

Case Study: Sheffield


Theme – Public and Private Provision


SheffieldFountainThe metropolitan area of Sheffield in South Yorkshire has an estimated population of 512,000 people, of which 10.8% identify themselves as belonging to minority ethnic communities (Audit Commission, 2004). In addition, the area has a large student population. Over the last decade Sheffield city centre has undergone several large-scale urban regeneration projects, culminating in the building of the Millennium and Peace gardens. These areas provide a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces, sympathetic street furniture, public art, and a water feature that has proved extremely popular with children on warm sunny days.


Within the city centre, Sheffield City Council provides two purpose-built public toilet facilities located by the Town Hall and in the Moor shopping precinct. The Town Hall facilities charge 20p for use, whilst the provision located at the Moor is free. Both facilities are attended, and are open between 8.30am and 5.45pm. Three Automatic Public Conveniences, accommodating 24-hour provision, supplement the purpose built city centre facilities. The Town Hall toilets are a prime example of Victorian civic planning. The ladies’ and gentlemen’s facilities are located in a prime position on either side of the Town Hall building. However, they are poorly signed. This was illustrated on one of our visits to the ladies’ facility, when a young man mistakenly entered the toilets. Both facilities are subterranean and therefore provide no access for people with disabilities and they are difficult to access by parents with pushchairs. However, both the ladies’ and gent’s toilets do provide baby changing and shower facilities, which are used frequently by either homeless people or builders from the many construction sites around the city centre. As the closest facilities to the Peace Gardens, the toilets are often used by children to change into dry clothes, after they have been playing in the garden’s popular water feature.


In our street surveys of Sheffield city centre provision, members of the public also identified toilets located at the Council Offices at Howden House, and facilities at a small city centre shopping area called Orchard Square as ‘public’. Surprisingly, few respondents identified the toilets at the Millennium Gardens as ‘public’ facilities. This may be due to the poor signage around and within the gardens, which makes it difficult to identify and locate these toilets.


Whilst 74% of survey respondents knew where the nearest ‘public’ toilets were, only 23% said they would use these facilities. In total 92% of the respondents questioned preferred to use the toilets provided by department stores, cafes and pubs. A public consultation meeting carried out in 2002 by Sheffield City Council’s Streetforce Department, found that the majority of respondents did not perceive Automatic Public Conveniences (APCs) as ‘public toilets’. Surveys carried out by this research found that nearly 70% of respondents in Sheffield would not use an APC.


One particular area of Sheffield city centre was identified as lacking in suitable provision. This area, known as the Devonshire Quarter, has developed into a bar, café and independent retail centre that primarily attracts younger people, students and young families. In addition, the area has a large green space which includes a skateboard park. The area hosts a yearly music festival that attracts large crowds. Interviews with local business owners identified the stress placed on businesses and the area itself, due to the lack of public toilet facilities. One retail business owner commented on the increased street urination resulting from the success of the area’s bars and nightlife. This made the area quite unpleasant for shoppers during the day. A café bar owner commented that the absence of any accessible toilets in the local area placed huge pressures on his facilities. The research team was offered an opportunity to monitor toilet usage at this business, and found that on a Saturday afternoon in July between 12.30-1.30pm, 40 people entered this business solely to use the toilet facilities. Between 1.30-1.45 pm, 19 people used the toilets. Whilst some did stay after using the facilities, the majority entered the premises solely to use the toilets.


A major gap in provision was identified in the Devonshire Quarter in relation to its predominant visitor demographic. Many of those who come to the area to shop, use the skate park or just ‘hang-out’ are under 18. During the daytime, those we spoke too commented that they would use café toilets, sometimes making a purchase to do so. However, the real issue came in the early evenings when cafes and shops were closed, as under-18s could not legally access the many pubs and bars in the area to use their toilets. One restaurant owner commented that she would sometimes let girls who were under 18 come into the restaurant to use the toilets, but would not allow boys under 18 as the owner had experienced ‘drug taking’ in the men’s toilets which she believed was by younger male users.


The lack of provision for younger people may lead directly to an increase in street urination. The research’s street survey found that 90% of respondents felt there was a problem with street urination in the city centre, and 82% thought there was inadequate provision of toilets in the evening. Whilst the majority of those we surveyed may prefer ‘private’ provision, many of the private options may not be suitable for all members of the public. Of 28 ‘private’ toilets audited in Sheffield city centre, only 16 had accessible toilet facilities for people with disabilities. Of these, only four offered the correct cubicle size dimensions of 2200mm depth and 1500mm width. None of the facilities we audited had the correct height and configuration of grab rails. Only four toilets provided a WC pan at the recommended height of 480mm, whilst, only 2 facilities had correctly positioned the WC pan 750mm from the back wall.SheffieldToilet


The choice between ‘public’ and ‘private’ provision may also impact on nearly 11% of Sheffield’s population that identify themselves as belonging to minority ethnic communities. An important aspect of these communities may be faith affiliations, which can determine which form of ‘private’ provision are accessible. For example, provision located in pubs or bars may not be suitable for people who do not include alcohol consumption as part of their faith. Consequently, such reliance on this form of provision, especially in the evening, may further exclude members of the population from visiting the city centre.

BackHouseBack to Case Studies

Document Actions