Western Road toilets in Lewes could be demolished to make way for housing

Ruth O'Keeffe, Jackie Bishop and Stephen Catlin outside Western Road public toilets.
Ruth O'Keeffe, Jackie Bishop and Stephen Catlin outside Western Road public toilets.

The Western Road toilets in Lewes which campaigners have been fighting to save are on a list of 49 sites Lewes District Council is planning to make available for housing.

This is despite a petition with more than 1,500 signatures led by St Anne’s church warden Jackie Bishop, cllr Ruth O’Keeffe and cllr Stephen Catlin calling for the loos to reopen.

In a report to the full council meeting held on Wednesday February 25 at County hall in Lewes it said: “The site is listed on a schedule of circa 49 sites currently under discussion with the council’s property regeneration partner and has been provisionally earmarked for two housing units.”

It was revealed last week that the district council was working with a consortium to build up to 450 homes on land around Lewes, Seaford, Newhaven and Peacehaven.

Southern Housing Group, Conran and Partners Architects and Karis Developments which make up the consortium, are the preferred bidders to build on the 49 sites across Seaford, Newhaven, Peacehaven and Lewes.

Last week the district council said it could not provide the Sussex Express with a list of the 49 sites at this stage due to legal and contractual matters which needed to be concluded. But it said it would announce the sites as soon as possible.

The district council agreed to give the additional information from the petitioners about the popularity of the loos with residents to the developers so this could be taken into account.

The council resolved to maintain the Western Road toilets in their current state and to establish a community toilet scheme within the area of Western Road and the High Street to alleviate the current and potential future loss of the site.

The disabled loo has been reopened to the public but is available for use by able bodied and disabled people.

Speaking after the meeting, cllr Catlin, who sits on Lewes Town Council, said: “The list has been kept secret and only now leaked.

“No one really knew what properties for sure were on the list.

“It is time for the district council to stop being so secretive. These are public assets and the public must be told.”

The loos are owned by Lewes District Council and were built between 1930 and 1950.

They were closed in January 2014 as a result of water getting in from the roof causing electrical faults and falling masonry.

The report by the council said they were considered uneconomical to repair.

Repairing the toilets would cost just over £20,000, according to the district council. Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe asked 100 people who lived in Lewes about the loos in a survey: 98 knew where the toilets were, but 76 of them thought that the toilets were closed. And 69 people said that they would use the toilets if they were open.

Cllr O’Keeffe said: “I feel strongly that the survey shows many people are not using the toilets because they think that they are closed.”

She said several of the people questioned thought they could not use the disabled facility because they believed it was only for disabled people.