Are London’s toilets taking the pee? Needing a wee while roaming the city streets has cost Londoners for over a century and a half; the first coin-operated toilet locks were at a convenience outside the Royal Exchange in the 1850s, costing one penny — hence, of course, 'spend a penny'. Now it can cost a lot more to relieve yourself in one of London's public toilets*.
In the days of the old Trocadero, long since gone, one Team Londonist member found herself spending exactly 100 pennies in order to use the facilities. We've also heard of toilets at Notting Hill Carnival costing £2 a trip, but as these are temporary facilities, we'll let that one go. Generally fees aren't quite such a rip-off, although an increasing number of places seem to be slapping on a fee.
Royal Parks introduced a charge of 20p for most of the toilets in its parks in 2014.
National Rail station charges vary massively — Victoria, Charing Cross and Cannon Street are free, while and Liverpool Street station is 30p. Is it fair that this is the case?
Where does the money go?
Royal Parks states that the charges "will prevent closures and help fund the £1.5 million cleaning and maintenance bill" and the Greater London Authority claims that the recent introduction of 20p charges to the Trafalgar Square toilets will go towards running costs. Fair enough, we reckon.
What are the options?
Well, most of the time it's a case of pay up or cross your legs. But you might be lucky enough to be in a London borough which operates a Community Toilet Scheme. This allows the public to use the toilet facilities in registered pubs, shops, bars and cafes with no obligation to buy anything from the business. The council pays the business a certain amount to cover costs for their involvement in the scheme.
Richmond began the first scheme in 2005, and has since been joined by Bromley, City of London, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Lambeth, Merton, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth, among others. Check your borough or town council website to see whether there's a scheme near you.
Otherwise, The Great British Public Toilet Map will guide you to your nearest facility (Community Toilet Scheme Facilities are marked on here too).
If it's something you feel that strongly about, how about joining the British Toilet Association, which campaigns for better public toilets across the country.
*We use the phrase public toilets to cover toilets in locations such as railway and tube stations, arcades and shopping centres, although technically they're not public.
What are your thoughts on the charges for using public toilets? Necessary? Extortionate? Know of any more expensive toilets in London? Let us know in the comments below.