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District council may take
unilateral action over toilets

Action is needed on the issue of new public toilets for Chipping Norton. That is the view of West Oxfordshire district councillor Steve Hayward, who said the authority should act even if it was contrary to the wishes of the town council. At a meeting of the district council, he accused the town of dragging its heels. The town council says it would prefer the present toilets in the Town Hall to be refurbished, especially since alternative sites proposed by the district council have run into planning problems. Cllr Eve Coles told the meeting that the town's view was that the "grim" toilets  needed smartening up and new lighting. The district council was supposed to have come up with alternative sites for the new toilets by the end of September. Cllr David Harvey, district council cabinet member for the environment, said: "This has been going on for some time now. It was my hope that we could reach a decision by the end of September but, as with previous proposed sites, we came across a planning difficulty. It is a protracted process but we are in a position now to decide on a shortlist of three sites which will be sent to the town council for their feedback. The problem with doing up the town hall toilets would be that, because of safety reasons, they would need to be equipped with loitering alarms so that if people felt threatened or unsafe they could hit a button to summon the police. We do always seek to take local views into account, but it may be necessary to take a unilateral decision if the town council's agreement is not forthcoming."

YOUR EDITOR COMMENTS: This article is all spin. Early in the year the Town Council said it didn't want a toilet in the middle of the Market Square or outside Somerfields which is what was being proposed. They wanted the existing toilets under the Town Hall re-furbished. Eve Coles reported this view to the District. The District officers actually prepared plans for a refurbishment and presented these to the Cabinet in the summer with costings. At that meeting (which your conscientious editor attended) David Harvey lost his cool and disowned his officers recommendations. He blustered... "We will not re-furbish the existing toilets. That is throwing good money after bad. I will get this sorted out by the end of September. I will find a site which is acceptable to everybody". So cut out the threats Mr Harvey and deliver on your promise. It was precisely because the Town Council had tried for two years to find a new site and failed that they finally said refurbishment is the only acceptable answer. We are looking forward to seeing this new shortlist. Previous favourite sites were behind the Guildhall - but we were told that space is needed for disabled access to the Guildhall. In the Cattlemarket car park was second favourite - but we were told that land was leased from the Hook Norton Brewery and the lease wouldn't allow a loo. Leasing a shop was looked at as a possibility.  In the motor cycle parking bay outside Somerfields was proposed by the District but that is plain daft! In the car park in front of the Blue Boar was another daft suggestion. We have been round and round this mulberry bush and Mr Harvey still hasn't told us what's wrong with his officers' plan to refurbish the existing loos. Perhaps he has come up with a new answer which everyone will accept. That would be great - but imposing a silly solution on the town (like the one below which they presented to the Town Council) would be a really mad thing to try. Remember Clochemerle. I can already see the protesters in position and the TV cameras rolling.

PS Steve Hayward is a Conservative district and county councillor for Witney. What exactly does he know about Chipping Norton



One of the District Council's options for a new loo in the town centre. Its difficult to believe that their own planners would let something like this through in a conservation area. But who knows anymore It will be very handy for the kebab van customers.     READ ALL ABOUT IT and see if you can work out what they are actually recommending - because I'm blowed if I can



Its amazing how discussion about public loos induces fits of the giggles in normally august bodies of people. There was plenty of mirth at the Cabinet on Tuesday afternoon as they returned for the umpteenth time to a discussion about refurbishing the loos in Chippy Town Centre. Hilary Biles had her Women's Lib hat on for the occasion. "Why is it that men never pay but women always have to pay And what is the charge" "I think its 20p" replied the Cabinet Member for Loos David Harvey (pictured left). WRONG! This figure had to be corrected in a later Press Release to the bargain price of 10p. "If we are making an issue of equality of the sexes " said Councillor Robinson half seriously "Why is it that there is a baby-changing facility in the ladies loo but not in the mens" Stand-in Chair Verena Hunt (Barry Norton was away on Regional Government business) told him that there was a mistake in the report. There was in fact a baby-changing facility in the mens loo as well".  The chuckling Verena by now was suppressing her laughter only with difficulty. She was pleased to see that Councillor Robinson was such a "modern man" (Barry would not have allowed all this flippancy round the cabinet table!) The humour was probably designed to cover up the fact that Councillor Harvey was in the process of carrying out the biggest volte face since the Duke of York marched all his men down from the top of the hill. He had told us back in August that the Town Hall loos would be refurbished over his dead body. That would be a complete waste of money. He would find another site. No problem and if the Town Council didn't like it they could lump it. Now he was telling us that after lots of searching there was no other site and for a cost of 130,000 he was proposing to provide under the Town Hall two ladies cubicles, one man's cubicle and a (charmingly named) "trough urinal" (more giggles). In exactly the place the Town Council had suggested nearly two years previously. Councillor Biles had the neck to thank Councillor Harvey for all his hard work in examining the options and proving that the Town Council had been right from the beginning. Councillor Coles - who has been fighting the case for the Town Hall site all along - was pleased that at last some resolution had been found. But where were the plans Surely it was possible to design more cubicles into the space. Councillor Townley made it clear that he didn't originally  think the chosen site was the best one. In his lifetime he had seen three or refurbishments of those loos. He was now convinced that this was going to be the refurbishment to end them all so he was prepared to go along with the recommendation.  It was left to Councillor Howes to ask the crucial question. He found the cost MIND-BLOWING. Was Councillor Harvey sure he was getting value for money from his partners Healthmatic Ltd. No prizes for guessing David's reply. He was absolutely sure that Healthmatic were very competitive. "And don't forget" said Verena "that vandal-proof design is very expensive"  So then there was a unanimous vote (The Cabinet is always unanimous) All systems go. Work would begin in January. Chippy was to get the smartest and most expensive loos in the Home Counties. I was surprised that somebody didn't shout "Three Cheers for David Harvey" By the time I got back to Chippy WODC had already issued a self-congratulatory Press Release. In it David Harvey says "The new facilities will be a credit to the District Council and I am sure that everyone will be pleased with the final outcome. We do sincerely hope so. This has been a long long road - involving going round in complete circles several times.  We do seem to finally have a decision.


And now the winner of the "Worst Pun of the Year" Award!

Council flushed with success after loos battle

CHIPPING NORTON Town Council has won the day over the provision of toilet facilities. It has campaigned for the present toilets at the Town Hall to be refurbished and West Oxfordshire District Council has agreed at a cost of 130,000. The scheme will provide two direct access cubicles for ladies, one of which will meet the Disability Discrimination Act, and a similar men's cubicle plus a separate urinal. Both will have baby change facilities. The Town Hall site was always favoured by the town council but the district council has said it would cost too much and has looked for alternatives - all of which ran into planning problems. Now the district council has decided that the current location is best. Access to the facilities will be improved, with additional lighting and improved pathways. The toilets will be designed so that the lobby areas will be of a size to discourage loitering. They will also be coin-operated, 10p per use, and as vandal-proof as possible. Work is expected to start in the New Year.

.......and the puns go on....

CHIPPING Norton council has won the day over the provision of toilet facilities in the town. It has staunchly campaigned for the current toilets at the town hall to be refurbished, and West Oxfordshire District Council has finally agreed. But it will cost 130,000 to enable the public to spend a penny.