The massive influx of staycation visitors to the Lake District is bringing pressure to bear on the area’s public loos.
There are reports across the national park of people urinating and defecating in lay-bys, hedgerows, back alleys and around the toilets themselves as conveniences struggle to cope with the volume of people wanting to use them.
Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, said he encouraged the opening up of public toilets as early as possible during the coronavirus pandemic because he considered it an important public health issue.
“We have had to introduce cleaning and social distancing regimes which can mean that the toilets don’t have the volume of use they have had before,” said Mr Leafe.
“I know that there is frustration among some visitors and we have been forced to clean up some unsavoury stuff around the toilets over the period of the last few months.
“But we would encourage people to use the toilets where they can and realise that they may have to queue at times. But we would say to people: ‘Don’t have a pee around the back of the toilets.’”
Tony Lywood, chairman of the Keswick Community Asset Company, which owns the town’s two public conveniences at Bell Close and Lakeside car parks, which are run by Danfo UK, said the huge rise in visitors in recent weeks was causing problems with the drains and plumbing.
“At the moment the influx of visitors is astronomic,” said Mr Lywood.
“It’s so much that the volume of people going through the toilets is causing real issues with the drains and plumbing. We are having to get people in on a weekly basis to unblock the drains.”
He also said that people were objecting to paying the 40p entrance fee and were jumping the barriers while others were toileting in public areas around the conveniences.
“It’s becoming a bit of a problem,” said Mr Lywood.
“The restaurants and cafes help because they have their own facilities but you have also got to remember that there used to be seven or eight public conveniences in Keswick but over time they have disappeared and there are now just two.”
The British Toilet Association (BTA) is campaigning for more and better conveniences in places like the Lake District.
Raymond Martin, managing director of the BTA, said that he could not focus on specific areas of the country but pointed out that nationally there was a problem with a lack of public toilet provision which had been brought into sharp focus by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Martin pointed out that the Government had set £3.2billion aside to tackle the coronavirus crisis but nothing had been ring-fenced towards public toilets.
“All these people are coming into the Lake District and they are going to have to pee and poo somewhere,” said Mr Martin.
“People are also going to be drawn into the towns and you have to ask whether the shops and hotels can cope. Going to the toilet is a basic human need and human right.”
He said that when austerity hit councils devolved the provision of public toilets to parish and town councils.
“They are squabbling and scrabbling about to keep public toilets alive and they are not up to spec,” he said.
“This bug is not going to go away soon and could be with us for years and there may well be a second wave. We need to have systems in place to protect us.
“Maybe we need to start saying that if you go to a public toilet then you need to wear a face mask and latex gloves as well as bringing your own toilet roll.
“There are a whole raft of things to consider — toilets are an absolutely essential service and are about health, well-being and social inclusion.”
He made reference to a council in the Scottish Highlands that has equipped lay-bys with garden trowels in an attempt to tackle people toileting in the countryside.
Around 150 plastic tools are to be made available at roadside areas around tourist hotspots near Ullapool and Dundonnell.
The trowels will provide an emergency, last resort solution for visitors, who will be able to use the tools to bury their waste.