'Ugly and mean spirited' turnstiles and cage put up at public loos in Blackpool to stop people getting 'free goes'

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Turnstiles and a cage put up around public loos in Blackpool – to stop people getting free goes – have been called “ugly” and “mean spirited”.

The toilets, on the Central Car Park next to Bonny Street and opposite the Coral Island arcade, have been upgraded by their owner Danfo in a clampdown on those who dodge paying to spend a penny.

Turnstiles and a cage have been built around the public toilets on Blackpool's Central Car Park, next to Bonny Street and across from the Coral Island arcade (Picture: Michael Holmes for JPIMedia)

Turnstiles and a cage have been built around the public toilets on Blackpool's Central Car Park, next to Bonny Street and across from the Coral Island arcade (Picture: Michael Holmes for JPIMedia)

The old system of using “coin boxes and doors that open out” was “frequently compromised by doors being propped or held open to permit those queuing to have a free go”, documents filed with Blackpool Council said.

“A flood of free goes inevitably makes the facility uneconomical. In order to maintain the facility, costs need to be covered.”

But Coun Tony Williams, the opposition leader at the council, said the structure is “ugly, not called for, and mean spirited”.

He said: “I hope they are not going to do this at every block of toilets they operate.”

The public toilets on Blackpool's Central Car Park in May 2018, before turnstiles and a two-metre-tall fence were built there to stop people dodging the 20p fee to use them (Picture: JPIMedia)

The public toilets on Blackpool's Central Car Park in May 2018, before turnstiles and a two-metre-tall fence were built there to stop people dodging the 20p fee to use them (Picture: JPIMedia)

Coun Williams said he is worried people unable or unwilling to pay will pee in the streets – or in the covered entrance to the toilets – and said people holding or propping the doors open for others are “no worse than people who buy tickets for the car park and give it to others when there’s time left”.

He added: “It’s just a sign of the times. It’s all about money.”

Emergency service workers are still able to use the toilets by using a special gate, papers added, while disabled loos are easily accessible at the back of the building, where the fencing and turnstiles have not been built.

The fence’s design was toned down after original suggestions it was “aggressive and industrial-looking”, with resort planners granting Danfo planning permission two years ago.

The number of toilets dropped from 18 to 12.

CCTV must be installed to watch the enclosure, the council said, while chiefs negotiated a new contract with Danfo, which was allowed to charge 30p, up from 20p, two years ago.

A review carried out as part of the contract talks looked at which existing conveniences were under-used, and which areas needed new toilets.

As a result, toilets in Highfield Road, Cocker Square, Bispham Village, Lytham Road, and at Bethesda Square all closed, while conveniences at Starr Gate and Gateway are set to move.

Plans to open new public toilets have been hit by complications and delays, however.

Although 17 toilets at Flagstaff Gardens will open in the spring, a "suitable location" for loos earmarked for Central Pier has yet to be identified.

Toilets planned for the Talbot Gateway won't be open until the new tram terminus is built where Wilko is now.

And plans for loos in Victoria Street are "still being finalised" because of complications linked to their proximity to the Tower, a Grade-I listed icon.

Danfo first started providing public toilets in Blackpool in 2002, which reportedly resulted in £3 million of investment in 18 months.

It also runs the public toilets in Wyre and was last year granted approval to also charge 30p there.

There had originally been plans to axe radar keys, which allow disabled users free access, amid concerns the system was being abused, though the proposals were dropped following a public backlash.

Nobody at Danfo could be reached for a comment today.