Video: ‘This is our WaterLOO’ – Women’s Institute marches through Ipswich in protest over bus station toilets
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
A historic march by the Women’s Institute protesting against a lack of toilets at the Old Cattle Market bus station in Ipswich took place today.
Almost 100 members of the Suffolk East Federation branch of the WI marched through the town’s streets to Suffolk County Council’s (SCC) headquarters to hand in a petition signed by more than 2,000 people.
The WI branch is calling for the existing multi-use toilet, which they claim is not fit for purpose, to be replaced by three improved toilets, including a dedicated facility for disabled users.
It has been out of order for the last week.
Placards brandished by marching WI members included: ‘Women’s Institute: Asking the council to spend a penny’; ‘Stop Loos Blues’ and ‘Bus Station: This is our WaterLOO’.
SCC has faced growing pressure to build public toilets since unveiling the £700,000 bus station in October 2013. The previous block was vandalised and burnt down. The march, which the WI is urging non-members to join, coincides with the 100th anniversary of the WI nationally and the release of the British film Suffragette about the women who fought for equality.
Bernadette Smith, chair of the public affairs committee at the Suffolk East Federation of the WI, which was founded in 1919, said: “This march was unprecedented – it was the first-ever WI march in Suffolk.
“There has been a great turnout and this shows that the WI still has a voice in the community in modern society.”
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Last week, after this newspaper announced the news of the protest, a SCC spokesman said: “We appreciate that the change from a disabled-user only toilet to one open to all, with the use of a twenty pence coin, has increased the usage of the facility.
“The charge to non-disabled users allows us to measure how many non-disabled users have used the toilet. Increasing the number of cubicles will require significant future expenditure at a time when council budgets are under pressure.”
Following the march, an Ipswich Borough Council spokesman said: “We recognise that the toilet provision at the Old Cattle Market continues to be an issue and made financial provision some months ago to contribute to improvements as and when these are delivered by the county council. We understand this is imminent.”
SCC is expected to provide a statement in due course.