CHARGES at the Largs seafront car park could be increased to pay for public toilets elsewhere in the town, a local councillor has suggested.

North Coast representative Alan Hill was quizzed by members of Largs Community Council (LCC) over the ongoing threat to four public toilet facilities in the town.

The loos at Aubery Park, Mackerston, Broomfields and the Pencil were all identified for closure in a document published by North Ayrshire Council (NAC) in January.

Officials from the council recommended that all four should be shut if a two-month engagement exercise didn't result in any community groups coming forward to run them.

But after a furious reaction from the public, and some councillors, the authority backtracked from the closure threat - though they agreed to push ahead with the engagement exercise.

Councillor Hill, a member of the minority SNP ruling administration at the council, told LCC the  consultation on the toilets' future had yet to be completed.

Cllr Alan Hill has suggested that one option to keep all the public toilets open is to increase Largs seafront car park chargesCllr Alan Hill suggested that charges at the Largs seafront car park could go up in order to keep public toilets open. (Image: North Ayrshire Council)

He said: "The council does not have a statutory obligation, bizarrely, to provide public toilets, and we still have got £20m of savings to make over the next couple of years at North Ayrshire Council.

"That money has to come from somewhere.

"The toilets in Largs were kept going, and subsidised, through the Largs car park fund, and I suppose ultimately, depending on the outcome of the consultation, that may well be an option that is left.

"We can increase the car parking charges and identify more funds to continue to support toilets. That is one of the options that could still be there.

"Across the council area, the council isn't running toilets.

"There is a consultation under way, but I don't know of any of the results of that at this point of time."

Outside of Largs, where the seafront public toilets, recently refurbished at a cost of £300,000, are not at risk, the only stand-alone loos still operated by NAC are at The Braes in Saltcoats.

Those, too, were earmarked for closure in the NAC report in January, but were given a stay of execution after the angry response to officers' recommendations.

Conservative councillor Tom Marshall said: "The groups who were consulted were the Cairnie's Quay Moorings Association and Largs Development Trust."

Largs Pencil toiletsThe public toilets at The Pencil (Image: Newsquest)

Community councillor Jamie Black asked: "Why are we putting money into motorhome facilities in the area when we are trying to close toilets?"

Councillor Hill replied: "I am not a huge fan of motorhomes, I don't think they bring a lot to the area.

"They arrive fully stocked, and I don't think they benefit the economy hugely.

"I agree, if you look at priorities, do we need motorhomes or space for toilets? I think we need toilets."

Independent councillor Ian Murdoch said he backed a pilot plan for motorhome facilities at Bowen Craig, but insisted public toilet provision was still a top priority.

"As far as public toilets are concerned, it is always top of my list," Cllr Murdoch said.
Aubery in LargsAubery Park in Largs is one of the four locations in town where public toilet facilities face an uncertain future. (Image: Newsquest)

"I think it should be funded through the Largs seafront car park fund. It has been in the past, and they should continue to do so.

"I estimate that the Largs seafront car park fund has been losing huge income over recent years because of the problems it has experienced with faulty equipment.

"All the councillors have agreed for the seafront car park to go to pay and display, and we hope that this will now be more efficient and keep the income stream coming.

"We could increase the charges, slightly but not overly, to help boost the revenue."

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “No decision has been made regarding future operations of the toilets and a report will be presented to Cabinet later this year.

“We can also confirm that the normal operating hours are in place for all sites.”