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Demands have been made for Argyll and Bute Council to spend some of its leftover Covid funding on keeping Ganavan toilets open this winter.
With less than 10 days before the toilets are due to close, a letter signed by 13 groups who regularly use the popular spot and its public conveniences has been sent to council bosses.
Representatives from Adventure Oban, Sofa to Summit, Oban Celtic Shinty Club, Ganvan Sands parkrun, Oban Canoe Club, Oban Mountain Rescue, Oban Boxing Fitness, Oban Wild Swimmers, Oban Sea and Loch Swimmers, Stramash Outdoor Nursery, Loch Eck Orienteerers, Macaulay Camanachd Association and Jog Scotland, have all signed the letter insisting the toilets stay open.
The letter describes Ganavan as a hub and says the signed organisations cannot understand why the council regards sport and recreational activities at Ganavan as only seasonal.
‘It is essential that the toilet block be open and available for us all through the year, not just April to October. Toilet use is not seasonal,’ it pleads.
Doreen Henderson who signed the letter on behalf of Ganavan Sands parkrun said: ‘We have people who turn up from Lochgilphead and Duror regularly, as well as all the locals who take part and we have people coming from further away. Recently we had an email from a woman in Glasgow checking the toilets would be open. We have 11 volunteers and regularly have about 20 to 25 family members waiting, some with children, and they all need access to toilets.’
Oban North and Lorn Councillor Elaine Robertson also raised the issue at a a virtual meeting of the authority’s policy and resources committee on Thursday October 14, where a report revealed that more than £1.6million of Scottish Government funding for the purposes of recovery from the pandemic still remained available to the authority.
The Ganavan facility is one of six seasonal public toilets across Argyll and Bute, the others are at Crinan, Ulva, Kilchattan Bay, Glenmorag and Sandy Beach near Dunoon.
Councillor Robertson told the meeting that the area has an extended tourist season now, with Ganavan busier than ever before, and keeping the toilets open would help people enjoy the area even more.
‘There is so much outdoor activity and if extra funding can be put into the budget for toilet cleaning, it will allow the seasonal facilities to remain open over the coming winter.
‘I feel strongly about it as people are out and about more than they were, and a lot of activities are going on.
Council leader and councillor for Kintyre and the Islands Robin Currie said: ‘Some of the toilets in question will be OK if we do the usual and close them, but there may be others we have to look at again.
‘As Councillor Robertson says, we do witness, even in October, some places continuing to be extremely busy, and they probably will be over the winter as well. This is good for the area. I think we have to accommodate that.’
Council executive director Kirsty Flanagan said it would fit the Covid funding criteria and cost just over £17,000 to keep toilets open for this year, but she warned it could set a precedent as something the council would be expected to do in future years.
‘That could see recurring pressure on the council, and funding is not recurring. We could do it this year but it is the risk of recurring pressure,’ she said.
Councillor Robertson said she appreciated that the funding was only for one year but felt it was ‘extremely important’ for the area.
‘We are becoming more of an area with a 12-month tourist season. I am based in Oban and I see activity increasing every year. I am not au fait with all the other toilets you mentioned but I can speak regarding Ganavan and it is busier than I have ever seen it. From my perspective, it is an area of recreational use. It is our only park,’ she added.
An executive decision will be made before the end of this month.
Speaking after Thursday’s meeting, Councillor Robertson told The Oban Times: ‘Ganavan toilets can no longer be viewed as a seasonal facility. Ganavan is a very popular area enjoyed by the local community, families, many recreational groups and visitors all year round. I am extremely hopeful a positive decision will be announced in the very near future.’
In February this year as people flocked to Ganavan for lockdown exercise, Adventure Oban stepped up following an appeal by BID4Oban for someone to open and clean the toilets at weekends until they reopened fully in April. BID4Oban helped pay costs and there was an honesty box for donations.
Oban Councillor Kieron Green said the partnership had been a success proving a need for the toilets to be open. He added: ‘It would be great if that could continue using Covid funding.’