My View, David Kessen: No-one wants to pay for public toilets

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There is nothing worse than feeling the call of nature, with nowhere to go.

But many people in Doncaster may be concerned that that feeling could be on the way.

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive has put forward plans to bring in turnstiles for the toilets at the transport interchange at the Frenchgate Centre.

They would mean you have to spend 20p to spend a penny there in future.

And they are not the first to bring in such charges. Passengers already have to pay to go in Sheffield and Barnsley.

Needless to say, people are not happy about the prospect. And why would they be? It feels fundamentally wrong to make money out of basic biological needs.

In fact, on Facebook, we have had a deluge of comments on the plans, and the vast majority of those are from people who are angry.

There are many reasons you can use to argue against bringing in charges.

For a start, if the facilities are not there, there is the concern that people will just use the wall after a few drinks on a Friday night instead. No-one would find that acceptable.

Further, if you have a coin operated barrier, it raises the question of what people are to do if they have no change. Many people using public transport no longer have to carry change, as many nowadays use prepaid tickets such as the Travelmaster cards.

But the real situation is never simple. And the fact is that public toilets, like everything else in life, cost money.

For a start there is the cost of keeping them stocked with essentials like toilet roll and soap.

There is also the matter of paying someone to keep them clean. Those are costs that need to be met, but rather than putting a cost to the public, why can that cost not be paid for with a levy on the bus companies that use the interchange? That would solve the issue of people carrying change.

But maybe the biggest issue is that of vandalism.

How do you stop someone damaging the toilets unless you have a toilet attendant, which again would cost money?

Well, I’m not convinced that having a coin operated turnstile will necessarily do that, as the determined Friday night drunk will probably just try to hurdle it anyway, unless it is a pretty robust structure.

Toilet charges are nothing new. The expression ‘spend a penny’ came into the language for a reason.

The fact is, like so many things these days, we want to have nice facilities, but no-one wants to pay for them. We the customers feel we are already paying enough in our bus fares, which we so often see increasing. At the same time, public bodies like the transport authorities are seeing their budgets cut.