Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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May 21 2009
I miss the old telephone boxes, don't you, squire? I miss the old telephone boxes, don't you, squire?
The humble public lavatory is on the decline in London A recent report stated that the number of public lavatories in London has fallen by 40 per cent in the last six years. That's only one for every 18,000 residents, and for some readers that can mean a long walk to relieve themselves or wash and shave. This decline is because providing loos is not compulsory for any council, and most local authorities want them taken off their hands - they're expensive and difficult to maintain. Making matters worse, most fast food joints now post men on the stairs to intercept those of us who nip in, ignore the food and try to slip down to the facilities. Or they have tokens or a key needed for access. So where can you go? Well, Borders on Oxford Street is a popular spot. On the second floor, tucked behind the cookery books you'll find men and women's toilets. The down side is that all of London knows about this little corner, and the toilets are usually busy and showing signs of use - it stinks. For gentlemen readers who only want to spend a penny, there's another option a few minutes from Borders in the shape of one of London's (relatively) new pissoirs - one is often to be found on Ramillies Street, down the alley by Dorothy Perkins. These public, portable urinals crop up rather sporadically, usually on Friday and Saturday nights, and are designed to be an alternative for men to relieving themselves on the street. Others can be found in busy spots between 8pm and 6am on some nights. And if you don't like the look of them, you could be pissing £50 up the wall - police are now instructed to hand out fines to anyone found urinating in public. Westminster Council spends most on its conveniences. It forks out £2.6m on public toilets each year, and its facilities received 15m visits in 2005. And this expenditure has been noticed - last year at the World Toilet Summit in Belfast (there really is such a thing), Westminster was named the best local authority in England for its toilets. The jewel in Westminster's toilet crown is the so-called "super-loo" in Oxford Circus - a £300,000 crapper fitted with CCTV, anti-graffiti measures and a full-time attendants. It's a palace, and I highly recommend a visit. Less hi-tech, but equally clean and inviting are the public conveniences at the north end of Carnaby Street, on Marlborough Street, and those in St Christopher's Place, just north of Oxford Street. Both are open from 7.30am to 11pm, Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 6pm on Sunday. Otherwise, you're only going to find toilets in other areas with a high density of tourists. You may try the stainless steel delights in Trafalgar Square, which have plenty of space and are well maintained, or the less salubrious loos under Leicester Square, which stink.