The Bronte family would be writing shocked letters of complaint to Bradford Council over plans to shut Haworth’s Central Park toilets, claims former TV presenter Christa Ackroyd.
She has joined the battle to save the award-winning loos and said she believed the sisters, and in particular their father Patrick, would have been outraged at any move to strip the village of such valued amenities.
“Patrick spent years campaigning for social and public health improvements and in 1849 wrote to the General Board of Health asking for an inspector to be sent to Haworth – which was then said to have worse sanitary conditions that the London slums,” Miss Ackroyd said.
“At that time 24 houses shared one toilet and there were only 69 toilets for a population of 2,500.
“It really was a case of open sewers running down the streets.”
An inspector, Benjamin Babbage arrived the next year and it was agreed to install a proper sewerage system, for which each house had to pay two pennies for the next 30 years.
“Sanitation, as well as education for all, was something Patrick really believed in, as did his daughters,” said Miss Ackroyd, who now runs a guest house which caters for Bronte fans from around the world.
Miss Ackroyd said she found it impossible to see any logic behind plans to close the modern toilet block which serves the park and also the lower reaches of the village.
“One million tourists come to Haworth each year and if they only spend £3 each, then that’s £3 million entering the system.
“That means the shops are successful and so pay their rates but if the lack of toilets deters just ten per cent from coming to Haworth, that would be a loss of £300,000.
“I know these are hard times because of the cuts, but it makes no economic sense to risk any loss to Haworth.
“It just isn’t cost-effective.”
Miss Ackroyd said closing the Central Park toilets would also dissuade families and the elderly from visiting the park.
“The message to tourists from the Council seems to be ‘come to Haworth because it is a real gem and spend your money – but we won’t spend anything on you’,” she said.
“That’s surely not we want all the visitors to the Tour de France to think?”
Councillor Andrew Thornton, the Council’s executive member for environment, sport and sustainability, said: “We are in a process of consultation involving petitions and listening to what people say before reaching a final decision.”