A disabled people’s champion from Clitheroe says he is disgusted to discover that toilet facilities at the town’s interchange have been closed without any prior consultation with local residents.
The facilities, which can be accessed with a radar key offering disabled people independent access to locked public toilets, are located in the foyer of Clitheroe Interchange.
However, the toilet sign has been covered with a poster and staff at the interchange are allegedly telling people that they cannot be used as there is nobody to clean them.
Father-of-two Simon O’Rourke, who runs the registered charity Ribble Valley Shopmobility and is in a wheelchair, was angered to find out the facilities are closed.
“A member of staff said that I couldn’t use them as there is nobody to clean them.
“I think it’s an absolute disgrace. Facilities such as this are essential for disabled people or those with certain medical conditions. They are also essential for families with young children,” said former town councillor Simon (44).
Chris Smith, Lancashire County Council’s bus station and interchange manager, said: “The toilet at Clitheroe Interchange has not been open to the public for around two years.
“Residents and shoppers can use toilets in shops and restaurants as part of the Ribble Valley Community Toilet Scheme.
“The nearest public toilet facilities to the Interchange are just across the road. Rail travellers can also use toilets on the train.”
However, LCC’s response has been dismissed by Simon, who asked why the council had not informed local residents about the closure.
Simon, who took part in the People’s Pelaton during the Aviva Tour of Britain in Clitheroe. added: “If the toilets have been closed, why haven’t LCC erected a sign saying this on the toilet door? A poster on the door telling people where the nearest toilets are would also be helpful, but obviously this has been given no thought.
“The toilets that Mr Smith is referring to across the road are at Maxwells – a private cafe/bar which is part of the Ribble Valley Community Toilet Scheme – but Maxwells does not open until 9am in the morning and closes at 5pm on some days during the week. Where do rail users go if they are catching a train before 9am or after 5pm?
“There are other toilet facilities in the town, operated by Ribble Valley Borough Council, but these are some distance away for people who have a disability or a medical condition that means they often urgently need the toilet.
“Saying that rail users can access a toilet once they get on a train is also optimistic as I’ve been on many a train on which the toilets are out of order.
“This toilet closure is an example of the authorities not thinking about how their decisions will affect some of the most vulnerable members of society.”
Ribble Valley Borough Councillor and Town Councillor Mary Robinson said she wasn’t aware that the interchange toilets had closed either.
“I fully support what Simon is saying,” said Coun. Robinson. “My son is a regular rail user and frequently travels on later trains on which he says there are often no toilet facilities.
“On the days that Maxwells closes at 5pm, the closest facilities would be at Booths supermarket, but this closes at 9pm, so if you’re travelling on a later train that doesn’t have a toilet, and you need to go, you’d be in an mess.
“At the very least LCC should have made sure that information about alternative toilet facilities are displayed in the interchange.”
The county council is currently seeking people’s views on proposals to close a number of transport information centres around the county – including Clitheroe Interchange.
The council is proposing to save £156,000 by closing information centres and the consultation is taking place until Sunday, April 29th.
“Closing the interchange will be of serious detriment to all those local residents who rely on it to arrange travel plans. Many of these people are older and don’t have access to the internet. Closing the interchange will increase feelings of rural isolation for many of these people,” Simon added.