Navigating the public meet-up with pals has become a bit of a minefield. But how you greet each other and the politics of sharing a picnic blanket seem fairly small fry when compared to issues around relieving yourself. Public toilets remain largely shut across the capital despite the glimmer of hope that councils would be reopening them as soon as they could crack (no pun intended) the social-distancing conundrum. In some cases it’s simply curtailing the outdoor fun. But it seems in other instances, people are answering nature’s call while out in nature.
Indeed, there were reports in the Hackney Citizen that local enforcement officers had issued so many fines for public urination last weekend around London Fields, that they ran out of paper on which to write them.
Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell is now pushing for public toilets to reopen post-haste. In her letter to housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick she states that London residents have been reaching out to her over the issue. ‘Take this one, for example: “Richmond has, as I’m sure other places have too, become fairly rotten and smelly with human excrement and urine dotted around town, outside my door, and in the parks our families enjoy.”’
She continues: ‘Without public facilities, people resort to using our streets and green spaces as open toilets. This is worsened by the fact that coffee shops and public houses, desperate to keep their businesses afloat, have started to sell takeaway beverages.’
Russell poetically describes the public as being kept on a ‘loo leash’ and also makes the valid point that people with disabilities can’t make the most of the easing of lockdown and loosening of restrictions until public toilets and changing facilities are reinstated.
However, the government states that the issue lies with local councils. When Time Out spoke to the chief executive of Parks for London Tony Leach in May, he advised that: ‘Most local authorities and other landowners want to open toilets where it is safe for the public and staff. Many loos in parks are small and tucked away and don’t have permanent staff, which makes managing social distancing and cleansing a challenge.’