Speakers’ Corner Bulletin No 14 - 12th Nov 2014
After 4 months of being a part-time political busy body on the subject of getting access to public toilets at Speakers’ Corner, I have little of note to report other than this (via Bob Doom); from Feb 2015 the nearest toilets, 7mins away across the park, which already close before dusk, will now also be charging a 20p admission.
A few weeks ago I received what at first looked like very promising information on two leading experts on the subject in question. Here’s the pertinent paragraphs…
Westminster City Council have a committee member John Tweddle - of the British Toilet Association http://www.britloos.co.uk/?page_id=7. He's called the Green Spaces Manager and prominent nationally in parks business. The trick would be to get him interested rather than try to hold him to account. You probably need a Westminster resident or two to get any real leverage - toilets might be a big issue at the borough's Senior Citizens Forum.
The most knowledgeable academic in the UK on the design and siting of public toilets, Jo-Ann Bichard, works on the other side of Hyde Park at the Helen Hamlyn Centre in the Royal College of Art. http://www.rca.ac.uk/more/staff/jo_anne_bichard/ She's formidably busy, but she might be interested in dropping by - and she could also know something about linking up Westminster, TfL, and the Royal Park, privatisation or no privatisation,
I passed John Tweedle’s info on to Bob Rogers (Bob Doom) because he is both a Westminster Resident and a Pensioner. Bob has since informed that he has been put on hold.
I meanwhile wrote the following to JoAnn B…
In the interest of openness I include the various responses from her and her colleagues.
Dear Jo-Ann Bichard,
My name is Tony Allen and I am a regular speaker at Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park. I have been reliably informed that you are “the most knowledgeable academic in the UK on the design and siting of public toilets.” and as such might be able to advise me on a little local difficulty.
Approximately 5 years ago the toilets located in the sunken area of the Marble Arch Traffic Island were closed and the linking underpasses permanently blocked with concrete in a so-called ‘renovation’ of the area. The nearest public toilets being the best part of half a mile away across the park, Sunday regulars at Speakers’ Corner soon found their own alternative arrangements; none of them wholly dependable: McDonalds, The Cumberland Hotel, The Park Lane Underground Car Park and other far less salubrious locations. Tourists and other casual visitors (comprising the majority of the several thousand people who attend each Sunday) after discovering now misinformation in official brochures and websites and finding no obvious toilets, simply cut short their visits.
The Royal Parks continue to profess support for Speakers’ Corner and publicly sing its praises “this unique bastion of true democracy and freedom of speech.” Yet they, along with the other culpable agencies (Transport for London and Westminster Council) refuse to offer any solution. Meanwhile this and other acts of neglect (see bulletins*) continue to contribute to the falling attendance.
What do you suggest we do?
She replied with a holding email…
Thank you so much for your e-mail. I just want to let you know that I'm still thinking about this issue and hope to have something to report back next week.
Re: Public Toilets at Speakers' Corner?
In a message dated 04/11/2014 Jo-Anne Bichard writes:
Is there anyway you might be able to help with this gentleman's enquiry? I've already sent him a 'holding' e-mail explaining I was caught up finishing my phd. I am now caught up entering all my work into a central Research Council data base that appears to have not included a lot of people's outputs when they transferred from one database to another. The real crunch is that there is now a 'window' for entering your outputs and impact and this closes next week when I am teaching - so i really need to get everything in this week…
But besides the silliness of academic output monitoring - I actually don't know what to advise Mr Allen…
to Jo-Anne Bichard, and TA - Nov 5
I did not realise the nearest toilets to speakers' corner had been blocked off and closed! How awful! Was it really some sort of security measure do you think? or was it plain ignorance and stupidity
I think Barbara Penner would be a better bet being in London seeing as I am far away.
I do not know the answer it is absolutely heart breaking, all I can suggest is more campaigning as there is no statutory solution to this. Ideally contact the GLA and make a fuss!
that is not much help is it
To Michelle Barkley
From: Clara Greed
Sent: 06 November 2014
To: Michelle Barkley; jo-anne bichard jpjn
Subject: Fwd: Public Toilets at Speakers' Corner?
I am forwarding this to Michelle and John both toilet experts in case you can help Tony Allen?
From: Michelle Barkley
to TA, ClaraGreed, jo-anne bichard, jpjn
This has been passed on to me, as I am part of an informal group interested in ensuring there is adequate toilet provision for everybody, and in my job as an architectural technical director, I come across new law and guidance on this subject.
As you are probably aware, Local Authorities have the power to provide public toilets if the wish, but there is no compulsion for them to do so. Many are closing public toilets to save money. All you can do is publicise the issue as widely as possible (Metro, etc? ), perhaps pointing out that this lack of public toilets is deterring free speech!
It is also worth contacting the Local Authority, as new London planning guidance does call for public toilets, and it may be worth asking them how they implementing this. See section 4.7, and also other references to toilets in parks, etc. It may also be worth highlighting this to Royal Parks!
Shaping neighbourhoods - Accessible London: achieving an Inclusive environment. Supplementary planning guidance
Sadly there is no easy answer to the lack of public toilets, but I hope this is of some help.
As always your thoughts are welcome.