New CBD toilets or bust: traders

SHOPPERS are crossing their legs, jumping up and down and looking around furtively for bushes, traders in Sale’s central business district are asserting — and they are a wee bit concerned about it.

So much so that Sale Community Business Association has begun a petition to highlight the lack of toilets in the CBD.

The petition asks shoppers to either show their support for re-opening Spotlight’s toilets to the public or for Wellington Shire Council to find an alternative.

Association president Mandy Garrard said the petition was designed to get customers’ perspective on issue to put forward to council.

“It is just to help council know folk out here need to wee,” she said.

Until recently, the association said, toilets at Spotlight were made available for public use, though they were never really promoted as public toilets.

These toilets, according to the association, were the only ones available to the public in the CBD, excluding those located in Gippsland Centre Sale.

However, just before Christmas, Spotlight closed its facilities to the public, reportedly citing they were in a state of disrepair.

The business association said it had lobbied council on the public’s behalf for it to come to an agreement with Spotlight to enable the toilets to be reopened for public use.

This has yet to be achieved.

Ms Garrard said she understood the difficulties faced by council in finding a clean and appropriate place where people wouldn’t loiter.

She said it didn’t matter if the toilets were refurbished – it was the access people were after.

The association has placed petitions in all its members’ stores, and is asking businesses which are not members to do the same.

Ms Garrard said if more businesses joined the association, it would strengthen the group’s voice within the community, especially when it came to the needs of customers.

She wanted to see people going into shops in search of toilets to sign the petition and would also like to see more user-friendly signs alerting shoppers to where toilets were located.

Wellington Shire mayor Cr Scott Rossetti said council had been actively working with traders to reach a resolution.

“Council is conscious the closure of toilets for public use at one business in Raymond St leaves the Gippsland Centre’s toilets as the only obvious alternative in Sale CBD,” he said.

“We do understand some businesses also feel there should be better access, including improved signage to the Gippsland Centre toilets, at the northern end of the clock tower.”

“We will continue to work with local businesses as we explore all of the available options.

“We are hopeful of an imminent satisfactory resolution.

“Access to clean, convenient and accessible toilets and parenting rooms is very important.”

Cr Rossetti said another business had come forward offering its facilities to be promoted as available for public use.

He said discussions with the business regarding the practicalities of the offer were progressing well.

While council had yet to receive the petition, Cr Rossetti said it considered community feedback important and looked forward to hearing what people had to say.

In response to questions about plans to include toilets as part of the mall’s redevelopment, a council spokesperson said the council received a lot of feedback on the issue.

She said during a nine-day community consultation exercise set up in a marquee at the mall, where artist impressions, ideas and concepts were displayed, more people responded against putting toilets in the mall than including them.

She said the council felt that including toilets as part of the redevelopment was not preferred by people who used the space, adding council was continuing to work to come up with a solution.

The issue resulted in a huge response on the Gippsland Times’ Facebook page. Many were mothers with young children pleading with council to find a solution.

To see a selection of these comments, read Tuesday’s Gippsland Times.