People ‘caught short’ are having to relieve themselves on the street after the closure of town centre public toilets, it’s been claimed.

An Accrington trader told the Observer that since the closure of the Peel Street facilities to the public, people urinating on side streets and at the back of buildings has become a regular occurrence in the east of the town.

This week the Observer launches a campaign to support a petition urging council bosses to reopen the facilities.

The unstaffed toilets have been closed every day except Sundays since last July amid anti-social behaviour fears, and the public are now directed to use the facilities in the Market Hall and new bus station.

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Jeff Ellis, who owns the Infant Street Fish And Chip Shop, was one of 120 businesses that signed the 1,300-signature petition.

He said: “People think the town is a laughing stock that we can’t provide a toilet.

"We have seen people urinating in the street, especially on a Wednesday afternoon when the market is closed.

"This is in the day, when we close at 6pm. This isn’t young people out on a night out drinking, this is people who can’t find a toilet to use.”

Jeff added: “It’s just crazy that in the 21st century the public toilets are closed. Why not put a 20p charge on them?

"It doesn’t make sense not to have decent public toilets this side of town. It’s making it less viable.

“We have lost a lot of customers since the bus station move and the toilets shut. I am sure reopening them would make a difference.”

Stephanie D-John, manager of Cuppa Cabana on Church Street, said they are encouraging customers to support the petition in the cafe.

She said: “I was out shopping for a school uniform and I had to take my little boy down a back alley because we didn’t have time to get to the bus station.

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“The council are spending that much on the town hall and there are no toilets near to the town hall when the market’s closed.

“It is a big inconvenience, especially for older people or people with small children.

“Having them closed is a pain for everyone, and I hope we can get them reopened.”

Kirsty Murray, who works at All The Rage Too on Peel Street, said: “We get customers coming in with young children desperate for the loo, and on a Wednesday there is nowhere to go.

“It happens quite often but we can’t allow people to use our toilets for health and safety reasons.

“People are going to be anti-social anywhere but they’re not the majority who use the toilets.”

Council leader Miles Parkinson told the Observer last week that the petition will be ‘looked at and responded to’.

But he said that the council had had to make savings and there were other toilet facilities in the Market Hall, the Arndale and the bus station.

COMMENT

The Accrington Observer is calling on town centre bosses to reopen Peel Street toilets.

The people have spoken and it is time for the council to listen.

More than 1,300 people signed a petition calling for the loos to be brought back into use from Monday to Saturday.

Tellingly, 120 of these names came from local business owners. We all know the challenges faced by Accrington

town centre – the pages of this paper are full of stories about it every week.

And we are also all aware of the difficulties local authorities face due to cutbacks – but a thriving town centre is crucial to the future of this borough.

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The Observer welcomes the opening of the new bus station and the £2m investment in a new public town centre square.

But it is important that we do not lose sight of the basics.

If people are worried about finding a public convenience – especially the elderly, disabled, infirm and people with young children – they will stay away.

Given what’s at stake, surely the money needed to open these toilets through the week is a drop in the ocean?