VOTE: Would you support the introduction of charges to use public toilets to avoid their permanent closure?

People wanting to spend a penny in the Midhurst and Petworth area may have to pay 20p for the privilege in the future.

The introduction of charges for public conveniences is one of a series of options being considered by councillors, which also include the possibility of permanently closing toilets other than in ‘selected tourist hotspots,’ to achieve target savings.

A Chichester District Council report admits, however, that charging could be a high-risk venture, because of the capital costs of setting up a scheme, arrangements for cash collection, and the prospect of reduced usage.

Decisions are expected to be taken soon by the council’s cabinet, but meanwhile a report released by the authority said the 2011-2012 budget for operating public toilets was £604,200.

An initial service review carried out in 2009-10 resolved to close four sites, and with other efficiencies this achieved savings of £72,000 a year.

A further £238,000 of savings needed to be identified through closures or alternative funding arrangements.

Suggested options which have been outlined are as follows:

1: The closure of 13 sites, including Wisborough Green as well as Avenue de Chartres, Cathedral Way, Florence Park, Northgate, Priory Park and Tower Street in Chichester; Itchenor; East Wittering (Kingfisher Parade); Selsey (Hillfield Road and lifeboat station) and West Wittering (Marine Drive and Pound Road).

Bosham; Little London and Market Road, Chichester; North Street, Midhurst; main car park, Petworth; Bracklesham Lane, Bracklesham; East Beach, Selsey; and Harting would be retained.

A facility at Chichester Cemetery is financed from other service budgets.

2: Charging residents 20p for the use of facilities.

3: A ‘partnership toilet scheme’ with an arrangement between the council and local businesses that were prepared to provide access to their toilets by the public for an annual fee.

The report said an earlier survey found that few city centre businesses had suitable facilities, and initial discussions produced no enthusiasm for such a scheme.

Other options included:

4: Limited closures, which would involve closing or passing to others some of the toilets.

5: Sale of advertising space on either internal or external walls of toilets, similar to schemes operated in motorway services stations. The report said this would not be expected to produce significant income.

Earlier this year Chichester District Council announced that Harting Parish Council had offered £500 towards the cost of South Harting public toilets, which cost about £5,000 a year to run.

The cabinet was told the district council was obliged to continue providing this facility.

This was because a lease agreement required it to provide a public convenience at the site until 2062, and to clean it once a day, which was the current regime.

Unless this lease could be altered by agreement, it was binding on the district council.

A cabinet report said approaches had been made to the owners of the White Hart pub, but they were unwilling to alter the terms of the lease agreement, so the council had to continue providing the public facility.