A facility where residents and visitors can spend a penny when they are in the centre of Ponteland is set to be improved, but councillors have different views on how much money should be allocated for the works.
The state of the public toilets near the Merton Way shopping centre has been a matter of concern for some time and it was one of the issues raised during the neighbourhood plan consultation.
Since the 1980s, Ponteland Town Council has had to fund the operation of the public convenience in order to retain the facility and it took on full responsibility for providing the service in 2012.
More recently, it decided to attempt a full refurbishment of the toilets and a budget provision of £20,000 was made for this financial year.
But it was forced to revise its plans when it discovered that the roof needed to be repaired. The matter was discussed by its environment working party and Coun Robin Ramsay agreed to look into the different options that are available to the authority.
His report says: ‘We have to consider whether or not we wish to improve the appearance of the conservation area by the provision of a pitched roof – the alternative is a flat roof. We also need to decide whether one, two or three toilets should be provided.
‘Each of the toilets would cater on a single occupancy basis for the able bodied and those with impaired mobility with carers if required. Nappy changing facilities would be incorporated in each toilet.
‘Bearing in mind that disabled facilities can easily be included in the toilets, there would appear to be little, if any, justification for providing three toilets.’
After seeking costs from various firms, the estimated allocations for the scheme with a new pitched roof are £53,572 for three toilets, £46,572 for two and £41,572 for one. If a flat roof is put in place, the estimates are £42,572 for three toilets, £35,572 for two and £30,572 for one.
The other space in the refurbished facility, the size of which will depend on how many toilets are installed, will be used to store various council equipment and materials.
At a full council meeting, Coun Liz Thompson said: “This is our opportunity to do the best we can with this important public facility, which is in the middle of the village.
“These toilets in other parts of the country look beautiful. We may not achieve beautiful, but I think we can certainly do very, very good.”
Other councillors felt that going for a pitched roof could be an unnecessary expense.
And Coun Christine Greenwell said: “I think we can come close to our original budget if we refurbish the gents, give the ladies a paint and put a new flat roof in place.
“Even if we have to spend more time discussing the scheme, it’s worth doing to make sure we get it right.”
When it came to a vote, a majority of councillors decided to ask the environment working party to further examine the options and then submit a recommendation to the full council.