Clerkenwell needs more public toilets

The dearth of places to spend a penny in central London has been noticed

By Oliver Bennett

A below ground toilet with railings surrounding entrances down, now closed to the public
Some of Clerkenwell’s decommissioned toilets. Photo: Oliver Bennett

The charity Age UK London is calling on London councils to provide more toilet facilities as a public health issue.

According to new research carried out by the charity, 81 percent of Londoners say that public toilet provision in their borough is bad, with only three percent of people sur veyed reporting that it is good. The survey also reveals that 9 in 10 Londoners sometimes, or always, consider whether there is a public toilet available before leaving home.

The London Loos survey was undertaken by the charity as part of Age UK London’s ‘Out and About’ campaign, which seeks to tackle social isolation and loneliness among older people – and a key reason for some older people is the concern that they won’t be able to access a toilet when they need one.

Respondents also said places where provision of toilets were not good enough included high streets and parks. Abigail Wood, CEO of Age UK London said: “Good public toilet provision is a hallmark of a civilised society and the fact that 81 percent of people think that the availability of toilets in their borough is bad is a scandal. Last year we called on local authorities across London to think of public toilets as part of their public health responsibility.”

Age UK London calls on councils to adopt local toilet strategies, including Community Toilet Schemes where each council supports local businesses to allow non paying customers to use their facilities. In the survey 75 per cent of people didn’t feel confident asking to use the toilets in a café or shop where they hadn’t spent money, but four in five said they would feel confident asking if the business was part of a Community Toilet Scheme.

In Clerkenwell there are several disused public toilets, including a male and female block outside the Grade II* listed former fire station (pictured), which is being offered as part of the sale of the building.

In Clerkenwell Green’s once-celebrated but now defunct mid-19th century toilets by George Jennings, which have been hoarded up since 2019, there is a plan to decorate them as part of the plan to beautify the famous square alongside the works in St James’ Churchyard. They have been mooted as a potential cafe or bar. Last year a prankster put laminated notices on the hoarding claiming that it was an art installation called “Black upon Green” by Izzy Lington and earlier this year satirical notices were put up suggesting that the site was to become a ‘Clerkenwell Mound’, like the Hyde Park Mound.

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