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Upgrade that would bring squat toilets and kiosk to Silver Street in Cambridge is deferred



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A planning application for new public toilets in Cambridge has been deferred.

Artist impression Silver Street toilets Picture: Cambridge City Council/Gort Scott
Artist impression Silver Street toilets Picture: Cambridge City Council/Gort Scott

The application put forward by Cambridge City Council to upgrade the current facilities on Silver Street would see a disabled toilet and kiosk above ground, with other toilets below.

The authority said the kiosk could be used as a concession or information point.

The plans would also introduce a number of “more inclusive” facilities, including improved baby changing, squat toilets to cater for those from different cultures, as well as a gender neutral bathroom.

The public toilets are located on the western side of the Silver Street bridge close to Darwin College, both of which are Grade II listed.

The application was due to be decided by the city’s planning committee on Wednesday (March 4), but councillors took issue with a number of elements in the proposal, including its height, effect on the surrounding pavement, lack of grey water reuse and the use of turnstyles for charging.

At the meeting, William Ackernley, representing the campaign group Friends of Queen’s Green, called on the committee to defer the application.

Artist impression Silver Street toilets Picture: Cambridge City Council/Gort Scott
Artist impression Silver Street toilets Picture: Cambridge City Council/Gort Scott

He said the group has “serious concerns about the safety, access, sustainability, the treatment of the trees and the role of the kiosk”.

He argued the area, which is a tourist hot-spot, already suffers from too much congestion.

“The pedestrian crossing here, it’s worth remembering, was installed following the fatal accident of a student back in 2011. A new tourist kiosk in this gateway will only add to the congestion,” he said.

Representing the architecture firm Gort Scott, Joseph Mac Mahon described the proposal as an “an exemplar in terms of sustainability”.

He noted the county’s highways officer did not object to the scheme, and he said “the real pinch point” for overcrowding “is actually on the other side of the street, in front of Queen’s College”.

He added: “There is a very strong case for refurbishing these toilets, which are in a very bad state of repair, requiring them to be closed for maintenance with increased frequency. In our opinion they are unsafe and unhygienic, and give a very bad first impression to visitors arriving in Cambridge.

“Not replacing the toilets is simply not an option.”

Cllr Mike Sergeant said the rain water collection on the roof risked being “tokenism”, as it provides only a very small fraction of the water used by the toilets, and he questioned why no grey water collection measures had been used.

Cllr Peter Lord spoke out against charging for the toilets, arguing they should be free, and objected to the application’s inclusion of turnstyles to enforce the charge.

The vote to defer followed a vote by councillors to signal their intention to vote against, but the council’s planning delivery manager, Nigel Blazeby, asked instead for a deferral.

Following a unanimous vote to defer, the application will be brought back to the planning committee at a later date, either revised or with fresh arguments in favour.

Read more:

Cambridge to get Japanese-style squat toilets

No return for the bollards as Silver Street gets ANPR



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