A BIZARRE row over the ownership of a remote public toilet has led to its closure.
For five years handyman Stan Bell, 75, cleaned and maintained the toilet at Daddry Shield, near Stanhope, Weardale, County Durham, believing he was doing a good deed for the local parish council.
But now he has been informed that Stanhope Parish Council doesn’t own the toilet and it is allegedly the responsibility of Durham County Council.
The row has caused one parish councillor, John Shuttleworth, to resign from the organisation in disgust.
Mr Bell, of nearby St John’s Chapel, said: “I cleaned the toilets voluntarily and on an unpaid basis for five years, under the impression I was doing so for Stanhope Parish Council.
“They were paying the rates to Northumbrian Water, but now claim the toilets are not their responsibility. Parish councils ask for more responsibility and authority yet when they have to spend some money they don’t want to know.”
Durham County Council closed the toilet last month due to its poor state of repair. Mr Shuttleworth, who is also a Durham county councillor, said: “The maintenance of this public loo was carried out by Stan simply because he takes pride in the Dale, he has been a dalesman all his life. I provided the cleaning materials, loo rolls and the like out of my own pocket. When it came to painting them I supplied the paint and a pal of mine did the work.
“But the loos are owned by Stanhope parish council and now some work needs to be done to bring them up to standard they don’t want to know. I resigned because I was fed up with their bickering.”
Parish council chairman Christopher Rowell said the authority was now investigating who owned the toilet.
He added: “Stanhope Parish Council believes that the public conveniences at Daddry Shield are owned by Durham County Council. We have never resolved to take ownership of them. Both councils are investigating further.
“It is only sensible to support the county council’s decision to close the toilet, as it is in a dangerous and dilapidated state, though I hope the closure is only temporary.
“No one can doubt the commitment Mr Bell has shown to his community by cleaning this toilet, but he is mistaken if I believes he’s been doing so on behalf of the parish council.”
Its head of direct services Oliver Sherratt, said: “During helpful discussions with the parish council it has been decided that the toilets will not reopen until issues surrounding public health and ownership are resolved.
“We obviously apologise for the inconvenience this may cause but feel sure that not many people would choose to use a loo which had no seat, loo roll or lights. The parish council will look into how the problems can be overcome and we will help in any way we can.”
A county council spokesman added that while records from the now-defunct Wear Valley District Council do indicate transfer of the loos, the parish council has no trace of a formal resolution accepting the toilets, nor had they maintenance schedules, building compliance or other measures in place to cover the property and associated liabilities.