The desire to have on-site public toilet facilities on our Recreation Ground has been on Residents’ wish lists for several decades. It was included as something to be desired in the Ashtead Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) of 2016, an initiative in which several of our current Councillors were involved; that suggested ”either at the Old Pavilion off Greville Park Road or near the Youth Centre”.
The issue has always been not so much the capital costs but the costs of opening, closing, and cleaning. The proposal of a café with public toilet facilities could be one way of addressing the issue of on-going costs, but is having a cafe at the Old Pavilion site the answer, and what would happen were that not to prove viable and we were left with unopened toilets?
When the proposal came to the Council’s Development Management Committee on 1 March 2023, there were around 60 representations on the Council’s planning website, almost all opposed. It should be noted that the Committee does not take account of material not submitted to the Council website, such as on social media, and only considers petitions where the names and addresses of the signatories are provided. No member of the public came to speak for the proposal, although one did against.
In view of the high level of local concern since the meeting, we felt it would be helpful to explain the reasons for concern over this particular proposal.
There were a number of issues with the proposal: (1) It wasn't clear from the application what the opening hours of the toilet would be – the general toilet would be internally accessed only so only available when the cafe was trading. (2) The site was incorrectly shown so the site plan needed to be resubmitted and fresh consultation held. (3) The drawings were of mis-matched different buildings and not final. (4) If it was not to be used as a takeaway why was there an outside hatch? (5) The report stated that there would be no outside seating, but the application stated that it would provide somewhere to sit outside. (6) The storage offered to the Rotary Club for Village Day equipment was smaller than that Rotary required, and they had not been consulted about the planning application in any event. (7) The disabled wc was shown as accessed only accessed over grass/mud so would make wheelchair access difficulty when the ground was wet. (8) There was no dedicated parking for a commercial use. (9) It was incorrectly stated that the principle of change of use had been granted. And (10) It was unclear how this related to the current lease because of these unanswered questions and ones raised by the ARA that they had withdrawn their previous tentative support to make clear they were unable to support the current application.
The overriding concern of objectors was, however, that the location was much too near to residential properties, and it was also pointed out that it was also not as close to the Childrens’ Playground as would be ideal.
The Development Management Committee has Councillors from the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Ashtead Independent, and Green groups. Not a single Councillor supported the application. It was therefore not just Ashtead Councillors who could not vote in favour.
Your Ashtead Independent Councillors have not seen evidence that there is a need for a permanent café on this particular part of the Recreation Ground, especially in view of the food outlets present in the vicinity in shopping parades and at St George. We are, however, well aware of the desire to have, and to help explore, other options for toilet facilities with interested parties. One possible site that might be generally acceptable and merit further exploration could be a section of the open square bordered to the south by the Childrens’ Playground and to the east by the Tennis Courts. That site it is not so close to residential properties and right by the playground, but would require the negotiation of a separate lease from the Council to whoever would install and operate that facility.
Councillors Chris Hunt and David Hawksworth