Spending pounds, yet struggling to spend a penny in Preston city centre
Shoppers spending pounds in Preston city centre are desperate for an answer to one burning question . . . where they can spend a penny?
With most public toilets still closed due to coronavirus, what happens if you are caught short while catching a bit of retail therapy?
Only the city’s Market Hall and railway station loos are open for customers to answer the call of nature.
The main shopping centres and the bus station still have their lavs locked for fear of spreading the virus.
The city council says it would like more public conveniences re-opened to end the inconvenience of thousands with nowhere to go.
“We believe that toilet provisions are essential to welcoming visitors back to the city centre and have made this a priority,” said Neil Fairhurst, deputy chief executive and director of customer services at the Town Hall.
“We would like to see more toilet facilities reopened for the public visiting the city centre in the coming days and weeks.”
Preston, like other town and cities across Lancashire, was back open for business on Monday after three months of lockdown. Shops and stores welcomed back customers with extra safety measures to keep people socially distanced and virus free.
But while the doors have reopened, the loos remain shut at the Fishergate and St George’s shopping centres. The disabled toilets are available, but only for those with a special Radar pass key.
The city’s bus station, owned by Lancashire County Council, has also kept its lavatory doors firmly closed during the pandemic.
But that could all be about to change. The authority says it is working towards reopening them now demand for public transport, and thus the bus station concourse, has dropped sharply since the Covid outbreak began.
One worry is that people will be drawn towards the bus station just to use the loos and not the buses.
An LCC spokesman said: “The public toilets in our bus stations are not currently open, however we are working towards being able to reopen them safely.
“The separate accessible toilets are available for those with a Radar key, and we are working through issues with social distancing, queuing, washing facilities and cleaning which need to be resolved before we can reopen the other toilets safely.”
A statement on the website of the Fishergate Centre says: “Public toilets will be closed for the foreseeable future until we can ensure the safety of our shoppers visiting these facilities.”
Up the road at St George’s, the story is the same. Their message to shoppers is: “In order to maintain health and wellbeing the public toilets will be closed until further notice.
“While there is a risk of the virus we have been advised to reduce access to a number of facilities including the toilets.
“The centre has limited resources during the pandemic and facilities can’t be cleaned as often as required.”
Shops are being backed on the toilet issue by Preston Business Improvement District (BID) which represents more than 800 businesses in the city centre.
Manager Mark Whittle said:“The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on businesses in the city centre.
“Operators are doing their utmost to ensure they have the correct safety measures in place prior to opening facilities to the general public.
“Whilst inconvenient, the safety of customers is of paramount importance.”
Preston Council’s Neil Fairhurst said that anyone using the Market Hall toilets would find increased health and safety measures in place.
“The toilets continue to remain open to members of the public and Preston Market traders.
“Additional health and safety measures have been implemented to operate these facilities safely, including frequent cleaning, a queuing system outlined by social distancing floor stickers and regular monitoring by the markets team.”