Following the completion of the refurbishment of the public convenience facilities at Loddon Staithe in October 2016, South Norfolk Council announced their decision to close the facilities located on Church Plain. Owing to significant local concern Loddon Parish Council agreed to take over this facility with effect from 1st January 2017, on an initial 6-month lease whilst further investigation was undertaken into the long-term viability of maintaining both sites. Since July 2017 the lease has been on a rolling one-month agreement but a decision on the future of the toilets has now had to be made as the Parish Council looks to confirm the precept for 2018/19.

Based on the costs incurred during the last 12 months relating to the day to day running of the Church Plain toilets, the forecast for 2018/19 is in excess of £15,000pa. The forecast for those same costs for the Staithe facilities are circa £21,000pa and whilst the Staithe costs are currently offset by funding of some £15,174pa from South Norfolk Council, this funding ceases in 2021 at which point the Parish becomes wholly responsible for all costs pertaining to the Staithe facility. There will be no such funding provided by South Norfolk Council in relation to the Church Plain toilets. Therefore, were the Parish Council to assume responsibility for both toilet facilities, the Parish’s financial commitment in terms of annual running costs would increase from £21,000pa in 2018/19 to in excess of £36,000pa after October 2021.

In addition, following a structural survey completed on the Church Plain building the Parish Council have been advised that approximately £14,000 is required to address issues with the ventilation, roof and damp in the structure. Recent issues with the electrical circuits and water leaks within the building also indicate that significant rewiring and re-plumbing are also necessary to make the structure fit for purpose. Were the Parish Council to assume permanent responsibility for the facility we would also look to refurbish the interior to bring it up to the same standard as the facility on Loddon Staithe, a conservative estimate of this cost would be around £25,000.

During the last 12 months the Parish Council has measured, using footfall counters, the usage across the two facilities and noted that the facilities at the Staithe, on average, were used by 3 times as many people as those on Church Plain. Outside of the tourist season this figure reduces, but not significantly.

Whilst the Parish Council recognises that there is a demand for maintaining the facilities on Church Plain it does not feel that this demand is sufficient to warrant the level of financial commitment it would have to make on behalf of our Parishioners who ultimately have to pay for this through their Council Tax. With the not insignificant increases in Council Tax coming from County and District Councils the Parish Council felt it vital that we minimise the impact of any local rise to the rate of inflation. Therefore, with this very much in the forefront of our minds the Parish Council will be handing the Church Plain toilets back to South Norfolk Council on the 2nd April 2018, at which point we understand South Norfolk will close them permanently.