Worthing leaseholders protest at having to pay to maintain public toilet

Leaseholders at a development in Goring are '˜upset' at having to pay to maintain a public toilet near their homes.

Chairman of the residents' association Mike Towns at the public toilet
Chairman of the residents' association Mike Towns at the public toilet

Most residents at The Waterfront in Eirene Road were unaware that a ‘big chunk’ of their service charge would go towards paying the £15,000 annual costs of maintaining the toilet, which is situated on council-owned land.

Rosemarie Perman said it was an ‘absolute shock’ and that her solicitor had not pointed out the clause which was ‘buried deep’ within her lease.

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She said: “The biggest worry is the insurance. You don’t know what it’s going to be.

“With every claim there’s an excess. You worry about how many claims there will be and what that does to your premium.

“You know what public toilets are like, a number of problems can occur.

“It’s upsetting for the residents who worry about the fact the costs could spiral.

“It just doesn’t seem right.”

Mike Towns, chairman of the Waterfront Residents’ Association, who is also one of the 103 leaseholders paying for the toilet, said: “It’s not fair that residents are responsible for an amenity that everybody in the street can use.

“It will be a great expense to us in the future. It’s without a doubt going to increase.”

When planning permission was granted to Kier Homes for the development, a condition specified that a toilet should be provided by the developers.

However it stated only that ‘maintenance agreements shall be agreed in writing with the Local Planning Authority prior to the occupation of the final dwelling’.

The council said it was the responsibility of the developers to pay for its ongoing maintenance.

But after trying for two years, Mrs Perman has been unable to track down paperwork explicitly setting out who is liable for the toilet because the council said the documents had been lost when its building was flooded.

Residents want the council to take on the responsibility of the toilet. Mr Towns said: “The cost to them would be fairly minimal.”

Mrs Perman added: “We are probably the only people in Worthing who will never use that public toilet.”

The toilet is currently closed because the hand rail for disabled users has been broken, Mr Towns said. There have been previous problems with the blockages and with the door, he added.

The residents raised a complaint with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman about whether the council should have protected them from having to pay the maintenance costs.

However the Ombudsman found no fault by the council, which Mrs Perman said was ‘disappointing’.

The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership has defended the Waterfront residents.

Sebastian O’Kelly, chief executive of the charity, said: “It is an absurdity that people who bought leasehold flats at The Waterway are now having to pay to maintain a public convenience until the end of their leases.

“This is an expense that Adur and Worthing Council should have ensured was paid for by the developers, Kier Homes.

“What happens the toilet burns down or is swept away, and has to be rebuilt and not all this cost is covered by insurance?

“Presumably the leaseholders would have to flush even more cash down this unwanted and costly adornment to their lives.”

A spokesman for Kier Homes said: “In 2016, we completed the final stages of the Waterfront development at Goring which resulted in over 110 much-needed new homes, as well as a new health centre and the relocation of Worthing Sailing Clubhouse.

“At the request of Worthing Borough Council we also built a public toilet in the local area; the ongoing maintenance of this public building is with the management company who are responsible for communicating costs to its residents.”

A Worthing Borough Council spokesman said: “We can confirm that the provision of a public toilet at The Waterfront was a condition of planning approval for the adjoining development.

“Any issues around maintenance requirements are a matter for leaseholders and the developer, which was made clear recently by the Ombudsmen.”