Potential Closure of Park Toilets
Campaign Success - updated 18 February 2012
The council have released appendix 5 of the draft Service Level Contract with Solutions SK and it shows that the Memorial Park Toilets are to be opened 7 days per week. This was confirmed by Cllr. Alexander at the 15 February Area Committee meeting.
We have come a long way since the article in December 2010 that identified the park toilets were on the proposed list of closures. They are not being closed and will be open 7 days per week.
This fantastic result has been due to the powerful community response to our campaign to keep the toilets open and we would like to express our thanks to everyone who have helped us to achieve it.
Please keep supporting your Community Park
Update 12 February 2012
Friends of Marple Memorial Park have been waiting patiently for the Council's Draft Service Level Contract with Solutions SK (who will be looking after our local parks from April) to be published to find out what the council's long term plans are for the opening of the toilets in the park. The SLC has been published on-line this week but to our surprise and disappointment it is not clear what the council's intentions are.
Last year the toilets were listed for closure but they were saved after a very strong public campaign let by FOMMP and supported by many other community groups and hundreds of local people.
Currently the toilets are being open 6 days per week but not on Sundays. Friends of Memorial Park think that Sunday opening is very important as the park is heavily used by families, children and the elderly over the weekend and on Sundays the alternative facilities are even less than on other days as the library is closed.
The council is now carrying out consultation on maintenance of their green spaces in preparation for the new regime commencing in April this year.
For reasons that have not yet been explained to us the Council have withheld a series of appendices from the consultation process. One of these – appendix 5 – is understood to specify the opening times of public toilets but because it has not been made available we do not know what the council’s intention on this matter is.
It could be that they are going to start opening them 7 days a week, as we have been constantly asking them. It could be that they plan to continue opening them 6 days a week but it may be that are intending to REDUCE the days that the toilets are open. If they had been transparent and published the appendix at least we would know the true situation and because it has been withheld we are naturally concerned and suspicious.
We have asked the Head of the new Public Realm Service to provide a copy of appendix 5 and explained our concerns about the lack of transparency in this consultation. We hope they will publish the toilet opening times before the consultation ends on 20 February.
So, how can you help?
Well, we need to get the message across once again how important the local community of Marple think this issue is and tell them that we want our park toilets open 7 day per week.
Please go to the on-line consultation at www.stockport.gov.uk/haveyoursay
Then click on the link to Greenspace Consultation.
Complete and submit the form to provide your feed back that:
“The toilets in Marple Memorial Park must be opened 7 days per week including Sundays please.”
Paste the message as above or put it into your own words with your own comments. Of course you can review the full draft contract if you wish and comment on this too! Filling in your details is optional but it will have far more impact if you do provide your name and address, rather than submit anonymously.
Please help us to get the message across that our park and the facilities within it are extremely important to the people of Marple. Please encourage family and friends who live in Marple to respond too.
Update 21 September 2011
A follow-up meeting to discuss progress on the proposals for keeping the park toilets open was scheduled with Councillor Alexander and her Environmental Officers for last Friday (16 September). The meeting had been arranged since 15 July but was cancelled via email by the council with less then 48 hours notice:
I write further to our meeting of 15th July 2011 when we agreed to a further meeting on Friday 16th September.
I am able to confirm that the Memorial Park toilets will be retained and will transfer to parks (Monday to Friday) - we are still considering the opening of the facility at weekends.
I can also advise that we meet separately with the allotment holders and carnival organisers about the facilities at Rosehill. They accept these facilities are closing.
With the agreement of Cllr Alexander we are cancelling the meeting on Friday. We feel the meetings have been a success and want to thank you for your contribution in concluding this matter.
Megan Black, Interim Head of Public Realm, Stockport Council
It is very good news that the council have responded to the public outcry over the potential closure of the park toilets by finding a way to prevent them from closing altogether AND to keep them open on weekdays. This is a very positive outcome of the campaign supported by thousands of local people but it is also very important that the toilet facilities are made available at weekends too, when they probably see the highest demand from families and people of all ages using the park.
Friends of Memorial Park, Marple Civic Society and Marple Carnival Committee decided to proceed with the 16 September meeting anyway, as it was felt that it would be of benefit to discuss the options for achieving opening of the toilets on weekends. Councillor Alexander and her officers were advised of this and told that their attendance would be welcomed. A reply was received from Councillor Alexander saying: “I have not given up looking for alternative means to keep the toilet open on Saturday. I do not see the point in meeting, only to agree this point.”
The meeting went ahead without any representatives of the council present and it was agreed to convey the conclusions of those discussions to Cllr Alexander and her Environmental Officers as follows:
Re: Public toilets in Marple Memorial Park
We (Mark Whittaker, John Wright and Alan Postill) met on Friday to discuss progress in our campaign to keep open the public toilets in the Memorial Park.
We are pleased that the council have made arrangements to keep the toilets open on weekdays by transferring responsibility to the Parks and Recreation department. However, we would like to stress that we consider weekend opening is essential because of the high number of visitors to the park at weekends. Many of these weekend visitors are families and older people for whom public toilet facilities are particularly important.
We have made suggestions previously on how weekend opening could be achieved; these include:
· Library staff could open and close the toilets on Saturdays
· Weekend duty staff could open and close the toilets on Saturday and Sunday
We are sure that the council will have its own ideas too and we are pleased that you and the officers are still investigating how weekend opening can be achieved. We suggest that we should meet with you in 4 to 6 weeks to review progress on this important issue.
In the meantime we assume that the toilets will remain open 7 days per week until this outstanding matter is resolved.
Mark Whittaker (Friends of Marple Memorial Park)
John Wright (Chairman-Marple Carnival Committee)
Alan Postill (Marple Civic Society)
At the time of posting this update no response has been received from Cllr. Alexander or the Officers. It is reasonable to give them some time to do so and we hope the response will be positive. As soon as we know more we will do our best to advise the huge number of local people interested in this issue what is to happen next.
Update 16 July 2011:
On Friday 15 July a second meeting took place between Cllr Shan Alexander, Environmental Officers from the council and representatives of Marple Community Council, Marple Carnival Committee, Marple Veteran Bowling Club, Marple Civic Society and Friends of Marple Memorial Park.
The council have reviewed the ideas and suggestions discussed at the meeting on 10 June and have made progress by identifying a solution to the cleaning of the toilets on weekdays that will utilise the same resources that service the Senior Citizens Hall, Library and Council Offices toilets.
It was agreed that the Veterans Bowling Club will have a key to the toilets and shall take responsibility for opening and closing them on Wednesday evenings in the summer when they hold their matches.
Opening and closing of the toilets during weekdays is currently being discussed internally within the council. If this can be concluded successfully it will secure use of the toilets from Monday to Friday each week. A further meeting has been arranged for mid September to review progress and in the meantime the toilets will continue to be cleaned, opened and closed under the existing arrangements until the end of September.
It is the view of the groups represented at the meeting that when solutions to the weekday usage of the toilets are in place and the facilities secured it will be possible to investigate ways to open the toilets on weekends and special occasions too.
The situation regarding other public toilets in the area were also discussed at this meeting and more details about these can be found on The Marple Website Forum.
Update 12 June 2011:
On Friday 10 June there was a meeting between Cllr Shan Alexander, Environmental Officers from the council and representatives of Marple Community Council, Marple Carnival Committee, Marple Veteran Bowling Club, Marple Civic Society and Friends of Marple Memorial Park. Cllr. Alexander has recently taken over the role of Executive Member for the Environment and is now responsible for the Community Toilet Scheme across the borough.
Cllr Alexander requested the meeting in response to the campaign initiated by Friends of Memorial Park and the letters of support from the other community groups invited.
The paper and on-line petitions, and particularly the comments made by local people, were instrumental in driving home how strongly the community feels that the toilets should not be closed and have enabled this dialogue with the council to begin.
The paper petition with 1280 signatures was formally handed over to Cllr Alexander at the meeting along with a download of 209 signatures and comments from the on-line version. The following letter accompanied this formal submission:
Thank you to everyone who has helped to collect signatures – it really was a collective community effort.
The meeting was positive but did not find an immediate solution to the potential closure and the toilets are not yet saved. The council appear eager to find a solution and a number of ideas and suggestions were discussed that they will now investigate in more detail. The outcome will be discussed further at another meeting scheduled for mid July. In the meantime the toilets will remain in use and will be open for the Carnival and Locks Festival celebrations.
Adoption of the toilets by FOMMP and / or Marple Community Council was one suggestion made by the council. This had already been considered by FOMMP and was rejected at the meeting. This task is beyond a small Friends of group. MCC will consider this at their next committee meeting but are expected to reject it too.
In conclusion, the meeting with the council was encouraging that it may be possible to find a solution that allows the toilets to remain open but we are not out of the woods yet. We would therefore encourage local people to continue adding their signatures and comments to the on-line petition and to write/email to Cllr Shan Alexander to reinforce the message between now and mid July that the toilets must not be closed!
Update 22 May 2011:
The petition against the potential closure of Marple Memorial Park Toilets has been going very well and we now have over 1,000 signatures. The petition can still be signed if you call in at Stationery Supplies on Stockport Road (opposite the junction with Hibbert Lane). The on-line petition is also going well and is particularly valuable for the supportive comments that many people are leaving with their electronic signatures.
The petition and a package of supporting letters were first sent by email to the person then responsible for the borough-wide “Community Toilet Scheme”, Executive Member for the Environment Cllr. Stuart Bodsworth. They were sent progressively starting on 28 April 2011 but as nothing was acknowledged everything was then sent by recorded delivery on 9 May 2011. The package was signed for on 11 May 2011 but has still not been acknowledged by Cllr. Bodsworth.
On 19 May we learnt that Cllr. Bodsworth is no longer Executive Member for the Environment and Marple Councillor Shan Alexander has now taken over this role.
FOMMP have been invited to a meeting with Cllr. Alexander and the Head of Environmental Services in early June to discuss the future of the facilities and opportunities that may exist. As Cllr. Alexander had not yet received our correspondence from her predecessor a fresh package of information was sent to her electronically on Sunday 22 May 2011. Here are the main items of correspondence:
We will report the outcome of these discussions once they have taken place and hope that the views of the local community will be taken into account when decisions about closure of the Marple Memorial Park toilets are made.
Please keep posting your comments on the on-line petition until the way forward is clear as every supportive comment adds weight to the case for keeping the toilets open. We also would encourage anyone against closure of the park's toilets to write to Cllr. Alexander and let her know. Her contact details can be found on her web site: Cllr Shan Alexander
Background and details:
In December 2010 there was an article in local papers announcing the closure of the park toilets. In response to this Cllr. Martin Candler emailed the following clarification to the Friends Group:
As part of general improvements, what is being suggested is that public toilets in Marple be brought into the Stockport Community Toilet Scheme, which is already operating successfully elsewhere in the borough.
Under this scheme the Council will aim to find three partners for each public toilet who are willing open their facilities to the public in exchange for a small fee to cover their costs. An agreement will be entered into which will ensure that members of the public will be able to use the facilities freely without being required to buy anything.
Marple councillors have alerted the Executive Councillor for the Environment, whose responsibility this is, about the possible risk that we may not be able to find three suitable partners for the toilets in the Memorial Park. In the meantime the status quo will remain.
The group requested assurances that the status quo will be maintained permanently if alternatives cannot be found and Cllr. Candler agreed "to follow this up as the budget process unfolds and to keep the group informed".
Cllr. Andrew Bispham attended FOMMP's monthly meeting on 14 February 2011 and advised that he would be attending a meeting later that evening to discuss and vote on the decisions to be taken regarding the closure of public toilets. He and Cllr. Candler would be doing their best to ensure that the Memorial Park toilets remained open but could not give any guarantees of success. Cllr. Bispham also advised that the information with regard to a public toilet having to be replaced by access to three others has proved to be misleading. He and others who voted for the Community Toilet Scheme believed that the three toilets had to be in the vicinity of the existing public toilet for its closure to be allowed but they are now being told that a toilet in Mellor could be closed if three new ones were added to the share scheme anywhere in the borough: Cheadle for example. The group agreed with Cllr Bispham that this was ludicrous.
At the end of February Cllr. Candler responded to our request for an update on the situation:
Last Thursday evening the Council agreed its budget for 2011/12 and within the details is the proposal to replace pubic toilets with community toilets as I mentioned to you earlier.
I am still talking to colleagues about the detailed implementation of these proposals. I will keep you informed.
There was no new information available for the FOMMP meeting on 14 March 2011. This was attended by new Marple Carnival Charities Committee Chairman John Wright, who expressed the Carnival Committee's concerns about the closure of the park's toilets and suggested that it conflicted with the desire to improve Marple and to increase visitors to the area. Everyone at the meeting agreed that it would be a backwards step for the park if the toilets were closed.
At the beginning of April 2011 Cllr. Candler responded to a further request for an update on the situation:
The toilets in the Memorial Park will not be closing in the near future.
The Council is still working on finding replacements as I described to you earlier.
If anything becomes clear on the matter I will let you know.
At the Friends of the Park meeting on 11 April 2011 the situation was discussed further and it was agreed that due to the ongoing uncertainty it may be of benefit to write formally to the council to express the group's concerns about the potential closure of the park toilets. On 16 April 2011 the following letter was send to Cllr. Candler and to David Brayshay, Head of Parks and Recreation:
Re: Potential Closure of Public Toilets in Marple Memorial Park
From our conversations and email exchanges on this topic I’m aware that you understand what an important facility the public toilets in Marple Memorial Park are to the community and park users, and I realise that you are endeavouring to negotiate keeping them open.
However, following discussion at the Friends of Marple Memorial Park meeting on Monday 11 April of your most recent updates on the status of these negotiations, which appear to remain inconclusive, the group agreed that we should formally write to you and David Brayshay to put on record our concerns and objections to the potential closure of the public toilet block in the park.
Memorial Park is extensively used by a wide cross-section of the Marple community covering all age groups and interests. This is true all week long but particularly on weekends and Sundays when we have families with young children using the play areas, teenagers using the skate park and older folk using the bowling green, not to mention dog walkers and others out for a simple recreational stroll. Use of the library’s toilet facilities are not practical for many of these user groups and is not possible at all on a Sunday when the library is closed.
FOMMP have made significant improvements to the park since our formation in 2003, and we continue to strive in this direction. Only recently we began talks with Marple Civic Society about seeking funds to extend the skate park in one of the first projects to spring from the “Vision for Marple”, a document that we have contributed a number of ideas to.
There are many initiatives bubbling away to improve Marple and bring in more visitors to the area and closure of such a fundamental facility as the park toilets would be detrimental to these common aims. We therefore urge you to investigate every opportunity to ensure that the park toilets remain open indefinitely and secure this essential facility in our park.
Mark Whittaker,Treasurer & Key Contact, Friends of Marple Memorial Park
It was also agreed at the April meeting to ask other local groups and organisations to confirm their views about the potential closure of the toilets in writing to the council and to initiate a petition.