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Councillors in West Malling discuss new toilets in car park behind Tesco as businesses lose trade since public loos closed

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Six months after public toilets were closed in West Malling, businesses say an alternative desperately needs to be found as they are losing trade due to the lack of facilities.

The loos in King Street were shut in April in a cost-cutting exercise by the borough council along with three others across Tonbridge and Malling.

The public toilets in King Street are next to restaurant bins prompting concerns about their location. Picture Trudy Dean
The public toilets in King Street are next to restaurant bins prompting concerns about their location. Picture Trudy Dean

The parish council was given the opportunity to take them over but felt it could not financially support the block in its current location.

Instead, Cllr Trudy Dean, chairman of West Malling Parish Council, says she is looking to build a new block in the borough council car park behind Tesco.

She said: "The current location of the toilets is not acceptable in modern day.

"They’re in a little back street, it isn't safe for pedestrians and there is no wheelchair access.

"We feel they will be better placed in the borough council's car park as there is a higher footfall and a less threatening place for people to go, that's what we are discussing with the borough council.

Jenny Lonergan outside her café
Jenny Lonergan outside her café

"When we have their recommendation then we will open negotiations.

"In the meantime I very strongly recommend that the borough council should reopen the existing toilets immediately because despite the fact they’re in the wrong place, they are very much needed in West Malling."

The Bean Rush Café neighbours the former facilities in King Street. Owner Jenny Lonergan agrees provisions are needed sooner rather than later.

She said: "Some gentleman who used to come in now can't and they said it's because of the toilets.

"Others say they can't drink as much coffee because they might need to go to the loo so they don't stay as long.

West Malling Farmers Market. Picture: Sandra Woodfall
West Malling Farmers Market. Picture: Sandra Woodfall

"We always see people rush up to the toilets then walk away again after finding out they're closed so they would be well used if they were to open again.

"To knock it down and build another one seems a bit mad when the building is usable."

Customers and stall holders have also felt the impact at the West Malling Farmers' Market since the facilities were locked.

Sandra Woodfall, market manager, explained: "Every time I write on Facebook about updates on the market, all I get is comments from the public saying they're not coming all the time there are no public conveniences.

"I also have a stall and people have said to me while the market was lovely, it's a let down there's no toilets.

Cllr Trudy Dean. Picture: Andy Jones
Cllr Trudy Dean. Picture: Andy Jones

"On a market day I arrive at 5.45am and I'm still there at 3pm and that's a long time to not have access to toilets.

"When this started, some shops and cafés were still closed because of covid. Now some have opened again, we can request to use their toilets but it's not ideal."

Mrs Woodfall says while the toilets were not always in the best condition, she feels 'something would be better than nothing' and would like to see the current block open again as seeking planning approval for a new building will take too long.

She also suggested starting a community toilet system where businesses could work with councils to open their toilets to the public.

A similar scheme in Snodland and Hadlow has been adopted since their toilets were also closed earlier this year.

Last month borough council leader Matt Boughton and parish council leader Trudy Dean met to discuss the options.

Cllr Boughton said while he agree's the toilets are not in the best location, they cannot be reopened unless the parish agrees to take them on.

He said: "We are happy to look at alternative provisions elsewhere and that’s what we're doing.

"But the parish needs to be clear whether they want better toilets, or toilets that can open overnight in which case they could open the existing ones."

Read more: All the latest news from Malling

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