Fears Kelso loos will be lost if vandalism persists

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Fears that persistent vandalism of Kelso’s public toilets could lead to them being lost altogether have led to calls for them to be properly locked and secured every night.

Community councillors believe repair costs to deal with recurring mistreatment must be far more than what it would cost Scottish Borders Council to close them at night.

Those concerns come after claims visitors to the loos have not only been damaging the facilities but spreading human waste around inside too.

Further claims that people have chosen to urinate in the wynd outside while the loos are closed for repairs were shared at last week’s meeting.

“It’s really not good enough,” community council chairman Dean Weatherston said. “We need to have the toilets in operation, so that means they must be locked at night.

“People are smearing faeces on the wall and everything.

“We are not the only town having problems but it’s ridiculous.

“They were converted about 10 years ago and were meant to be anti-vandal toilets.”

Residents took to social media this month to share examples of times when the Woodmarket facility’s money machine failed to recognise the 30p charge or its doors were locked or the Shedden Park loos’ machine was too full to accept more coins.

“The system is just not fit for purpose,” Mr Weather ston added. “It’s costing more than expected, income is less that forecasted and we’re seeing an increase in people urinating and defecating even during daylight hours.

“However, after speaking with neighbourhood services, it is not the case that they have not been working for months, but simply as soon as they’re fixed they’re vandalised again.

“Vandals on an almost-nightly basis are filling the coin slots with stones, glass, sticks and soil. This is the problem.

“They are also trashing the toilets, burning the toilet paper and spreading their own faeces on the walls.”

Now calls are being made for the facilities to be locked at night in a bid to crack down on vandals and ensure in the long term that the toilets are accessible through the day.

Mr Weatherston added: “The sensible option surely would be to get the person who locks the abbey up every night to lock up the toilets aswell.

“It would be good to find out what time the vandalism is being caused. If it’s at night-time, then what’s the cost of repairing that damage and what’s the cost of paying someone to open and shut them?

“In the past few months, there have been people defecating and urinating down the Wynd. It has been witnessed even during daylight hours.

“So long as the toilets are out of action due to vandalism inside or people tampering with the coin machine, then we are going to see more of this.”

Last year, Scottish Borders Council agreed to look into privatising the region’s public toilets after a report revealed that the decision taken in 2017 to begin charging 30p for spending a penny had netted less than a third of its £280,000 target in its first year.

Kelso councillor Simon Mountford warned that it is highly unlikely that the local authority would be willing to fund the opening and closing of the loos on a nightly basis.

“Until they know the results of the loo review come the autumn, the council is not going to commit to any spending,” he said.

“The fact is that paying to use the toilets is not making any money.

“Now we are trying to find a better solution, but one of the problems is that the council is not legally obliged to provide toilets. It’s not a statutory obligation.”

In March, police launched an investigation after windows were smashed at the public toilets at Shedden Park.

A similar attack was carried out in 2014 and the toilets had to be closed for weeks.