People are urinating and defecating in the town’s open spaces and beaches and yesterday the borough council called for it to stop.
“We have had reports of people using our open spaces and beaches as toilets,” a blunt statement issued yesterday by the council said.
One of those reports was from one of its own councillors, John Rankin, who published a photograph on social media (that we will not republish here) which appeared to show human excrement floating in one of the municipal waterways on the seafront.
“This is not acceptable behaviour and is not justified by the toilets being closed,” the council’s statement went on, “Clearing up this mess takes our cleansing team away from other vital work and puts them at risk.”
In his post Mr Rankin said: “I know the sea front toilets are closed but this is unacceptable in a crazy golf course.”
Responding to Mr Rankin’s post Nicholas Davies said: “I think if people behave like dogs they ought to be treated like animals. Disgusting.”
It’s opened a debate as to whether public toilets around the town – closed as part of the measures to protect the public from Covid-19 infection – should be reopened, East Sussex County Councillor Godfrey Daniel thinks they should and says : “Surely it’s time to reopen the public toilets? People who live in Hastings need toilets!”
But former Mayor and Hastings Borough Council (HBC) cabinet member Judy Rogers is clear: “The message still stands that Hastings is closed.”
But Al Hay tells Ms Rogers: “Come and spend five minutes around the big scaffolding at the end of George Street! You need to open the toilets. This isn’t good for the health and living standards of residents.”
Kevin Burchett says: “Make all the takeaways and the kiosks close, then shut the beaches and go back to a proper lockdown then they wouldn’t be pooing and peeing everywhere would they?”
Sam Clee says: “It is so frustrating that HBC is taking this approach. People clearly need to leave the house during the pandemic, and as advised by central government they should be, to exercise.
“There is also no ban on travel now despite HBC’s independent position on taking the stance that the town is closed – it isn’t, people can travel to the town freely… Other councils have kept public toilets open for residents and visitors alike, Tunbridge Wells for example, as it is so obvious that the alternative is people having to use the beach etc. How can this possibly be preferable to using the toilets?”
Councillor Rob Lee who leads the Conservative opposition group on HBC is clear, he wants to see the toilets opened and Joanna Giles adds: “People with hidden disabilities, children and the elderly simply cannot wait till they get home. Also what about the homeless? Things are hard enough for them as it is. Seriously think about who this affects please.”
A statement from central government at the end of May clearly put the the decision on when to reopen public toilets in the hands of local councils, a statement from the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “While decisions to reopen public toilets are for councils, we strongly encourage them to open wherever possible.
“We’ve published guidance to help them ensure facilities are safe where they are open including increasing cleaning of touch points.”
Last night in her weekly video to the people of Hastings, council leader Kim Forward said the council is reviewing it position of the reopening of toilets – and other amenities – on a weekly basis, she said: “We are sticking to our message that Hastings is closed to visitors as we want to keep our infection rate as low as possible. The number of visitors is considerably lower than we would normally expect over such a sunny period. We are reviewing our policy on the closure of amenities and toilets on a weekly basis.”
Lack of toilet facilities affects those with serious conditions like Crohn’s Disease but also has an impact on pregnant women, young families and those who work outside or travel, lorry drivers for example.
While last night’s social media message seemed to be overwhelmingly in favour of Hastings reopening its public toilets there were those who were more cautious who asked how effectively the toilets could be cleaned and the potential risk to those doing the cleaning.