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Should the Porthcurno public toilet be free?

Public Toilet Poll

entrance to toilets

New Entrance Barriers

toilet building

The recent toilet block

old toilet building

The disused ladies toilet

2021 UPDATE - TOILET NOW OPEN, and free of charge for now: From March 2020 the public toilet in the Cornwall Council carpark at Porthcurno had been closed without explanation or announcement, but reopened at the start of July 2020.

In 2014 barriers were installed on the entry to the relatively new public toilet building next to the beach carpark at Porthcurno. To get in you now need to put in a 20p coin, and to get out you then need to activate an electric eye just behind the swinging barriers. These barriers open inwards automatically and firmly, perhaps too firmly for any child who might get caught between the opening barrier and the metal sides.

The public toilets at Porthcurno had always been free, and until recent years were situated in two buildings at the top of the carpark, one of them actually a temporary building on wheels for the gents toilet. Penwith District Council then built a grand new toilet block at the bottom of the carpark, which features a tall, attractive electric cooled drinking water fountain in the foyer. Strangely, the building is not directly accessible from the carpark, and though it has three doors, the two side-doors have always been padlocked shut from day one and the lights have no switches and for years were left to burn all night. The former ladies toilet building stands unused at the top of the carpark.

In 2009 Penwith District Council were absorbed into the larger Cornwall Council, formerly called Cornwall County Council. Cornwall Council took over the running of the carpark, replacing an attendant with machines. Recently as public services are cut in order to provide financial assistance to wealthy companies and banks, Cornwall Council have passed public toilets over to relatively powerless and penniless Parish councils. This has seen the introduction of charges to use some public toilets, such as at St Buryan and Treen, but not Porthgwarra. The charges raise interesting questions: how much does the charging equipment cost to install and maintain, who physically collects the money and what profits do they make? Answers should be available by making a Freedom of Information request to Cornwall Council, which is free and open to all.

In many cases public toilets have simply been closed, perhaps an example of what free-marketeers call "trickle down economics." The current alternatives here are, well, a wooded hillside, the sea itself, or local food and drink establishments who may have their own toilets for paying customers. In 2015 there was talk of simply closing the toilet in the Porthcurno carpark, despite the very large revenue that Cornwall Council extract from the carpark and despite the already emerging hygiene problems. In 2017 the toilets remained open, with the access gates typically left open providing free access, due to malfunction or vandalism by frustrated visitors who may feel they are being asked to pay twice for a necessary public service when they have already paid the council to park in a poorly maintained carpark. The situation in 2018 remained uncertain, with some possibility that Cornwall Council would re-assume responsibility for the public toilets at Porthcurno beach carpark from 2019, but even in 2020 the situation is unclear - with real hygiene consequences for the surrounding area.