Thursday, 21 July 2011

The toilet and the absurdities of UK law

I’ve been in touch with the British Toilet Association this week to find out more about the law and the provision of public facilities.

I was really surprised to discover that they fall under one of the absurdities of UK law, in that there is no legal requirement for public toilets or baby changing facilities to be provided. But they are covered by guidelines within a British Standard. In reference to baby changing it states that 'adequate baby changing facilities should be provided in all public toilets'.

So I’m not sure whether to groan at the government here or raise my hat to the local authorities and businesses who have taken the initiative to include baby changing facilities where public toilets are provided.

The good news, according to the British Toilet Association, is that most planning departments will consider these recommendations in planning applications for new developments so there's opportunities for improvements in baby changing and feeding facilities. Ealing Council for example have really considered parents' needs in their planning guidance for baby care facilities, including separate baby changing and feeding facilities and enough space to manoeuvre and park pushchairs.

The British Toilet Association has long campaigned for legislation to be introduced regarding the provision of public toilet facilities. Unfortunately, this has fallen on deaf ears at Westminster and the problem has been further compounded by the local government budget cuts. And here I was thinking Mr Cameron was a family man! But their work doesn't stop there and they continue to lobby on behalf of our's and our baby's bottoms.

On the plus side, the British Toilet Association supports the Loo of the Year Awards which includes a category for baby changing facilities. Last year’s national award winner was Asda. Their criteria focuses on the provision of such facilities but I don't think it addresses issues such as whether nappy bins are emptied and if separate feeding facilities are provided, so that's where we come in.

As an aside, the urban myth that if you’re pregnant and need to pee, your need will be accommodated by a policeman’s hat is in fact...true. Another absurdity of UK law perhaps? I wonder if anyone has put it to the test…

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