COMMUNITY leaders in a seaside town have been urged by their local MP to re-think a controversial decision on the location for much-needed new public toilets.
Last week it was revealed that the proposal to build the three-cubicle block of loos in the middle of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, has been given the green light by the Planning Inspectorate.
The toilets will be built just off Front Street, on a patch of land right next to a house owned by local man Mike Rigg and close to business premises.
The site was chosen by Newbiggin Town Council and caused a split in the community, with hundreds of locals and visitors signing rival petitions.
Planning inspector Chris Checkley overturned the county council’s refusal of planning permission for the scheme, a decision branded an “absolute disgrace” by Mr Rigg.
Now Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery has stepped into the row, and called on the town council to find a less controversial site for the new loos.
Fears have been voiced that the toilets will lead to a loss of privacy and attract problems such as vandalism, graffiti, drug use and noise.
Mr Lavery says the town council’s decision to ignore the local residents’ petition is wrong. He called for a re-think, saying the council might have won over the planning inspector, but had not convinced those who really matter – the people who will be affected by the decision.
“They have a chance to come up with a new location and I’m urging them to think again. The ball is in their court and they need to listen to the views of the residents, not the planning inspector.”
Alan Thompson, who represents Newbiggin on the county and town councils, said more than 10 potential sites had been examined, but virtually all had proved unsuitable.
He said the chosen site was in the town centre, accessible and was an excellent location. He added there are no plans to reconsider the decision.
“I can think of public toilets in Ashington’s pedestrianised shopping centre, and in Corbridge, which are stuck between business premises with domestic accommodation above, so this is nothing out of the ordinary.”
Millions of pounds have been spent in Newbiggin to make it a more attractive destination for tourists and regenerate its ailing high street. But town leaders say the effort is hampered by a lack of accessible toilets for the growing number of visitors.
Mr Checkley said he could find no reason why the toilet building should act as a magnet for young people or cause any disturbance, especially when it will be locked at 7pm every night.