Councillors have rowed back on a threat that four public toilets in Largs could be closed in the spring.

North Ayrshire Council (NAC) will now ask community groups to consider taking on the facilities at Broomfield, Aubery Park, Mackerston and the Pencil under 'community asset transfers'.

A report published last week asked NAC's cabinet to agree that if there were no expressions of interest in taking on any or all of the toilets at the end of a two-month consultation, they would  "close thereafter".

But at a meeting on Tuesday the cabinet agreed to remove that particular phrase from the proposals.

The Gallowgate Street public toilets will remain open after the council spent a controversial £300,000 on upgrade works.


Largs and Millport Weekly News: Pencil public toilets in Largs were boarded up in 2021Pencil public toilets in Largs were boarded up in 2021 (Image: Newsquest)

North Coast councillor Tom Marshall, leader of the authority's Conservative opposition group, said: "The leader of the council has agreed with me that the toilets will not be closed until there is a community consultation, and then local councillors will be able to suggest other means of funding the ones that will stay open."

Independent councillor Ian Murdoch told the News that the removal of the words "close thereafter" from the consultation document does not mean that the future of any of the facilities has been secured.

He said: "We managed to reach an agreement prior to the meeting that we would be consulted, and the clause in it that said the toilets would be closed after the consultation was removed.

"It doesn't take away from the fact that we should have been consulted in advance of this paper coming out.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Cllr Ian Murdoch Cllr Ian Murdoch (Image: North Ayrshire Council)

"However, we will have a lot to say in the consultation process coming up. We now need to find alternative budget measures of keeping the public toilets open.

"If someone had told me a few years ago that it would be costing £500,000 to keep all the toilets open in Largs, I wouldn't have believed them.

"But that is the cost that the council have given as costs have kept going up.

"I still find that astronomical. It is a total of £300,000 for the Gallowgate Street toilets, and now another £200,000 we need to keep the remaining toilets in Largs open.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

"I think the £500,000 figure is blown out of all proportion.

"We need to give community wealth building a chance. Local companies have told me that they can do the works for substantially less.

"We need to give local companies and sole traders a chance but they are concerned about that the red tape being too complex.

"If the council are serious about community wealth building, they need to find a way where local companies can be represented and given a chance to bid."

Aubery Park only provides male facilities due to long term issues with repairs to the female block - which, the report says, has no prospect of being fixed, due to the close proximity to a pond making costs prohibitive.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Pencil public convenience in Largs

The estimated current required investment in the toilets at Broomfield is £62,000, Mackerston Place is £73,000, and the Pencil is £60,000. 

The latest round of proposed asset transfers or closures would result in savings of £87,000 per annum on utilities,  operational costs, repairs and maintenance.

It also reveals that the full year running costs for the public toilets in 2022-23 was £80,000 - not including utility bills, non-domestic rates and repairs, amounting to a further £50,000.

The report estimates the total employee costs and cleaning supplies is around £60,000 a year - not including 'ad hoc' call-outs following an incident or complaint at any of the sites, which could amount to a further £2,000-£3,000.

Largs Community Council member Jamie Black told the News that it was important that the community council is also part of the consultation plans.