Published: 21/06/2018 19:00 - Updated: 21/06/2018 14:06

Delay on decision to shut public toilets

Written byDonna MacAllister

 

Dingwall toliets
The public toilets in Dingwall are amongst the blocks campaigners fear could be at risk of closure.

Highland Council has agreed to pause for two months in order to give closer examination to its controversial plan to shut public toilets.

And it is has told the constituency MSP it is "confident" that it can reach an agreement to keep the under-threat toilets at Dornie Hall open.

Leading Dingwall and Seaforth councillor Alister Mackinnon, who is the council’s ruling administration’s budget leader, has responded to concerns voiced across the county and beyond about the potential impact of closures.

He said suggestions were coming in from community groups – to help potentially secure the future of the facilities – so it would be "prudent" to allow extra time to consider the future of highly-valued public toilets.

And he said the council was looking at ways of lending community groups money to take over the running of toilets for themselves.

The North Highland Initiative (NHI), which works to invigorate rural communities – and  the managers of the North Coast 500 tourist route –  welcomed the decision.

NHI chairman David Whiteford said: "We have emphasised the importance of the availability of public toilets to the tourist and in particular, that there should be a review of the proposed date of closure.

"We are delighted that our views have been taken on board and that the proposed closure date is now toward the end of the tourist season, thus allowing time for further dialogue.

The move comes after community councils along the North Coast 500 route launched a petition bearing more than 4000 signatures, calling on the controversial decision to close some toilets to save £338,000 a year be scrapped.

Councillors Alister Mac-Kinnon and Allan Henderson, on behalf of the Highland Council’s administration, said in a joint statement: "In view of serious community proposals coming forward and being assessed, by groups such as North Coast 500 and others across the Highlands, through the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, it is prudent to allow extra time for the review.

"The review will be extended to October 31, to ensure we have a sustainable network of toilets across the Highlands.

"The administration are also looking at ways of creating a council loan fund to help communities with conversion to community ownership."

The closure of public loos had been scheduled to take place in August. The councillors’ announcement results in a two-month extension for a solution.

Tom Campbell, managing director of NC500, said: "It is important that we try to find innovative ways of providing the appropriate number of public toilets for the area and to do that by having positive conversations with communities, tourism groups and businesses."

Dornie Hall toilets, a short distance from Eilean Donan Castle, is also under threat of closure. A petition to the council has gathered more than 4500 signatories.

The local authority ended a funding agreement with the Dornie and District Community Hall Association for use of the facilities.

But the council told Kate Forbes MSP it was "confident" it can reach an agreement to keep it open.

Kate Forbes MSP said: "The toilets are clearly well-used, particularly at the height of tourism season. Highland Council have obviously been listening and thanks to the efforts of local councillors and local people, I am hopeful the toilets will remain open."

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