At Your Convenience: A Lavatorial Walking Tour
CityLoos and Changing Places
Stop outside the gates and look at the sign on the right of the entrance.
You’ll notice, these are Award Winning Toilets. The Loo of the Year Awards have been held in Britain since 1987 to encourage high standards in toilet provision.
Sadly, you’ll have to cough up 50p to visit these particular award winners… or any others in the borough of Westminster.
Over the past 10 years in Britain it is estimated that 40% of all public toilets have been closed. They have, during this time, been handed down the social food chain to Local Authorities, who have no legal obligation to provide you with a public toilet.
This is why you’ll see vastly different things going on in different London boroughs.
In August 2012 Westminster council ceased to operate any public toilets. They were contracted out to Carslile Cleaning Company… Trading under the name City Loos, a subsidiary of the Impellam Group owned by the billionare and former Conservative Party treasurer Lord Ashcroft. So he’s the one you can write to if you want to complain about the 50p charges in place at all of Westminster’s public toilets.
You might remind him of his own saying: “Those who can afford to help others have a moral duty to do so.”
Speaking of positive social change, we can’t leave this building without looking at the rather unusual unit on the left.
That is a changing Places Toilet. These facilities are designed for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities or other physical conditions which mean they need the support of a carer to help them change.
Inside there is an adult sized changing table, a tracking hoist and plenty of space for everybody who may need to in there.
The name “changing places” comes from the fact that for the people who need them these toilets are the difference between leaving your house for more than a couple hours, by which time you’d have to return home to change in a clean environment, or else be changing on a grotty restroom floor somewhere.
To me they highlight how important toilets really are: while for most of us it’s a minor inconvenience to pay 50p they do affect some people’s lives drastically.
Continue along the street now in the direction you were going. You’re looking for a garden gate on your left.