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Mayor Sadiq Khan calls for more public toilets that reflect the diversity of London

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, has announced new plans that encourage the development of gender-neutral toilets throughout the capital. The hope is that by providing more public spaces that are free from the constraints of gender stereotypes, trans gender and non-binary individuals will feel more comfortable when going to the toilet.

The guidance forms part of a wider set of revisions to the “London Plan” – a framework that acts as a blueprint for the planning and development of London’s shopping centre’s, commercial developments, leisure facilities, shops, cinemas and sporting facilities.

The shortage of public toilets in London

In a BBC investigation last year, reports showed that the number of public toilets has continued to fall at an alarming rate, with nearly 1,800 closing nationwide over the last decade.

With the number of residents throughout London continuing to rise, combined with an ageing population and the night-time economy buoyed with the advent of late running Tubes, the demand for public toilets in London cannot be overstated. There has been an increasing requirement for modern facilities that reflect our changing society.

While there are no legal obligations for councils to provide public toilets in London (several boroughs have none at all), the closure of public toilets has been viewed as a relatively easy way to reduce expenditure, particularly against the backdrop of budget cuts and the need to save money.

The shortage of facilities has also led to understandable concern that both Londoners and tourists are limited to how long they can spend somewhere, simply because they have nowhere to go to the toilet.

The London Plan

Discussing the intended plans, Mr. Kahn has stated that “Toilets are a vital public service and can help to shape the experience of the capital for those who live here and for those visiting – we need a range of toilets that reflect the incredible diversity of this city, giving people the confidence to move around London with dignity.”

The move has largely been viewed as both practical, and symbolic – reaffirming the inclusivity of London and the diversity of its population. City Hall has contributed saying that the toilets should be well designed so that users of all genders can feel safe, with full-length doors and partitions, clear layout and good lighting.

The new plans are also expected to call on developers and local authorities to include more “changing places” toilets, with features such as a height-adjustable sinks and a hoist, in order to assist people with disabilities.

Considering more than a quarter of a million severely disabled people do not have access to public toilet facilities that meet their needs, and places like Westminster tube station currently have no access for disabled people, the plans are both welcomed, and arguably long overdue.

Although the London Plan is only a guideline for the public sector, council planners have tended to adopt the proposals wholesale into their decision making. It’s expected that the plan will also call for ongoing surveillance, management and the cleaning of toilet facilities to be agreed at the planning stage.

We’ll endeavor to keep you up to date as new details on the London Plan emerge.

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