Loo of the Year

I am afraid that it is too late for you to cast your vote for this year’s Loo of the Year Award.

This competition is run by the British Toilet Association who present plaques to the worthy winners every year, and it’s a fair bet that you are unlikely to find these awards to cleanliness and service to the public displayed outside the diminishing number of public toilets in London.

[I] was reminded of this rather worthy competition on a recent visit to the public convenience (an oxymoron being distinctly anti-public and inconvenient) at All-Nations opposite the Royal Albert Hall.

This popular Green Hut allows cabbies to park up without being given a ticket, provides the necessary sustenance for driving the cab and importantly somewhere to go to the toilet. Now what was once a free ‘public convenience’ charges 50p to ‘spend a penny’, rendering the old euphemism about using the loo absurdly out of date. A family with two children would need £2 just to allow them to go to the toilet.

Remarkably Harrods a short walk away with marbled floors, teak fittings and a choice of hand washes and perfumes only charge £1 for their facilities. Harrods understands that public toilets stimulate the economy by making visitors entering their store feel more welcome and thus more likely to spend money.

While many authorities seems to want to abrogate their responsibility and as with parking councils positively discriminate against visitors visiting their high streets.

With today’s anti-social behaviour it hasn’t been easy for councils to maintain public toilets: obscene graffiti; the need for vandal resistant hand-dryers; some authorities employing suffused soft blue lighting redolent of an 1980s upmarket night club (apparently for heroin users it is extremely difficult to find a vein under ultra-violet light); and predatory men all thrown into the mix.

With our coffee drinking culture and the widespread inability to walk more than 100 yards without draining a bottle of the oh-so fashionable mineral water clean public toilets are in greater demand than ever.

The civic pride of Victorians has not been lost altogether. On a recent visit to Hatfield House situated just north of London, they have built a pseudo-Elizabethan toilet: oak doors, roof beams and with a nod to modernity spotless white tiles. With Hatfield’s recently opened children’s farm Hatfield understood the toilets importance. I can’t think of a suitable London contender for the Loo of the Year Awards, maybe I’ll cast my vote with Hatfield next year.

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