A plan to improve public toilet offerings in Cork city can proceed. Photo: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

City Hall explains Hilsers project

Councillors and City Hall management have shed some light on a controversial plan to turn a former jewellers into toilets while another public toilet across the road remains closed.

The public had voiced their concerns on social media about the contentious plan to redevelop the former Hilsers building into a public toilet especially as the nearby toilet remains out of order.

The plan was part of a new policy on public toilets on Leeside brought before councillors during Monday’s Cork City Council meeting for discussion and led to councillors speaking on it for more than an hour.

Chair of the Environment, Water and Amenity Strategic Policy Committee Cllr Dan Boyle explained: “What’s proposed is that the building which is part of the English Market would be a public building like our library or civic offices where people can get information on civic services and an accessible toilet would be part of that development.”

“It would have to go for public consultation and planning consideration particularly with the businesses that are around it,” said the Green Party councillor. Going into more detail, David Joyce, Director of Services Roads and Environment Directorate, said: “In relation to the medium-term proposal for Hilsers, it’s been very clear from the start that it will require very significant public consultation.”

He said nothing would done until that public consultation is complete.

He continued: “What we had on Grand Parade was an automotive solution and what we’re proposing now is manned solutions. The last time this was spoken about in council the request was that we would have people on site of these city centre locations because of the issues that have been experienced in the past.

“You’re talking up to about €140,000 to bring that (out of order) toilet (on Grand Parade) back into operation. It is 12 years old and needs a significant refurbishment or to replace it from scratch.”

The policy plan given to councillors said to renovate and repurpose the ground floor (of Hilsers) into an information/public display area and installation of public toilets and public changing facilities are estimated costs between €75-€100k.

Access to the premises will be monitored at all times to deter any anti-social behaviour. Cleaners will also be employed to cater for toilets and information area cleaning requirements, said the policy report.

Mr Joyce also said the Hilsers project would be a medium-term solution adding there would be facilities built into the new central library. The Hilsers project would fill that gap until the new central library is built over the coming years.

Another policy option which caught councillors’ attention was the Leeside Lethreas Sticker Scheme.

This policy is a “subtle and understated approach” to make the most of and avail of existing toilet facilities within pubs, restaurants, and hotels in the city centre, the plan said.

The proposal is that each premises participating in the scheme would display a ‘Leeside Leithreas’ sticker on their front door or window which would allow members of the public to access the toilet facilities within the premises.

Right of refusal would be at the discretion of management of the premises. A charter between business owners and Cork City Council is required to outline the terms and conditions of this agreement.

Initially the scheme would be rolled out as a pilot project and most likely as an age friendly project.

The policy was given the go ahead by councillors which means City Hall can meet with business owners, stakeholders and projects can go out to public consultation.

Short-term policy actions

• Pay to use principal

• Make available toilets facilities within Cork City Council public buildings for members of the public to access

• Open North Main Street Shopping Centre toilets to the public

• Increase awareness of public toilet facilities provided by Cork City Council

• Liaise with local business owners at key amenity areas to make toilets facilities available for members of the public to access

Medium-term policy actions

• Develop and deliver a new toilet facility on the Grand Parade

• Leeside Lethreas Sticker Scheme

• Provide public toilet facilities at key recreational and amenity areas of Cork city

Long-term policy actions

• All public realm projects must consider/include the provision of public toilets in their proposals