Women’s Institute to march through Ipswich in protest against lack of toilet provision at Old Cattle Market
A petition with more than 2,000 signatures will be handed over to Suffolk County Council at their headquarters.
The Suffolk East Federation members of the WI 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.
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.
“Members have shown that it is not just Jam and Jerusalem that captures their attention,” said Bernadette Smith, chair of the public affairs committee at the Suffolk East Federation of the WI, which was founded in 1919.
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“The march is probably unprecedented in Suffolk. It is quite historical. We don’t do it very often for the very reason that the WI likes to be quite refined and not too pushy.
“We have some members who are not really marchers and militant, but feel strongly enough to support it. They are very keen.
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“We were appalled so much money was spent on the revamp without any thought for general toilets. County buses come in from as far as Framingham and Stowmarket and you can’t go to the loo. You have to go to the pub and buy a drink or go to the Buttermarket, which is quite a trek.
“It’s been very inconvenient for customers and the one toilet that is there is tucked away, and when I monitored it over a period of months it was out of order more than it was working because it is very flimsy. It is not fit for purpose.”
In September, the disabled toilet became a multi-use facility with a 20p coin slot. It was out of order yesterday.
Mrs Smith said: “They should have built more than one toilet. They could have even opened a little coffee shop to fund it, like in Norwich. We hope they will actually take some notice from our 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.”
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.”
The march starts at the bus station at 11am on Thursday next week.