The battle of Shipley loos went on-line this week with the start of a petition to save them from closure by Bradford Council and protect the rights and dignity of local elderly people.
The Market Square toilets, which catered for 42,500 visitors in 2013, are due to be axed next year in a money-saving move which the Labour-run local authority blames on budget cuts imposed by Westminster.
But Barry Cooper, chairman of Shipley Town Centre Business Partnership, said its members and local people have vowed to save the toilets and also the job of the attendant. He has submitted the petition to organise public opposition to the plan.
“It’s there so people can make their feelings known and make the Council sit up and take notice,” Mr Cooper said.
“We’ve got a fantastic street festival in the town next month, which will attract 30,000 people over three days. How could we have that with no public toilets available? What are elderly people supposed to do when they arrive in town? Beg to use a toilet?”
The petition says the Council failed to properly assess the impact the closure would have on shoppers, residents, market traders, retailers, public transport users and businesses.
It adds: “The facilities are vital for the traders on the open market, which currently operates three days a week, as well as for other specialised markets and events.”
Mr Cooper points out that while the Council sets great store by public transport, closure would discourage mass travel.
“West Yorkshire Metro are currently upgrading Shipley to transport hub status, with investment in the town. Closure leaves no facilities at the bus or train station for people travelling by public transport,” he said.
The petition points out that the toilets were refurbished at a cost of £81,000 in 2006 and received five stars in the 2009 “super-loo” awards.
Mr Cooper said that because Shipley has an aging population and is working to become “dementia-friendly”, the closure would do the exact opposite by discriminating against the needs of dementia sufferers, the infirm and the elderly.
Shipley MP Philip Davies has already given much support to groups tackling the issue of dementia and was the second to put his name on the online petition after Mr Cooper.
“There are a lot of vulnerable people in the community who rely on those toilets when they go to town,” the Conservative MP said.
“Closing the toilets would harm those people’s lives and also do nothing for the regeneration of Shipley as whole.”
Earlier this month, the Council’s executive member for environment, Councillor Andrew Thornton blamed the decision on the need to meet tough public spending targets imposed nationally, but said talks were ongoing.
The online petition can be found at epetition.bradford.public-i.tv/epetition_core/community/petition/2739.