D-day for controversial plan to convert Derbyshire public toilets into cafes and shops

One of the buildings that could be converted
One of the buildings that could be converted

The destiny of several prominent public toilet blocks and buildings in the Derbyshire Dales is set to be decided.

On Thursday, October 25, at a meeting of the Derbyshire Dales District Council commercial board, the decision could be made to allow some toilet blocks to be turned into cafes or shops.

The decisions are being made after the authority agreed in April to close 10 out of its 26 public toilets due to annual maintenance costs of £467,000.

Plans were first discussed for a number of these sites in July, with councillors hoping to rescue some of the toilet blocks, or see them used as food outlets or shops.

Business cases have now been drawn up by the authority to help make a decision for each site.

The sites which, will be discussed this week, are the former public toilets at Bakewell Recreation Ground, Artist’s Corner in Matlock Bath, the children’s play area in Hall Leys Park, Matlock.

In addition, the fates of the Ranger Station in Hall Leys Park, Matlock, and Matlock Bus Station will be discussed.

Repairs in the region of £4,000 are required for the toilet block at Bakewell Recreation Ground, which was built in the 1920s. Earlier this year, repairs were thought to be £804.

A 20p charge has now been introduced at the site, which will remain open for seven months of the year – this is to offset running costs of £9,500 a year.

The two options for the site are for it to remain as it is – open from April to October – or for the site to be converted into part toilet, part cafe.

For the latter option, the disabled persons toilet and baby changing facilities would be merged and the mens and womens toilets would be reconfigured, freeing up space for a a cafe.

Two business owners have already approached the council to express their interest in this idea.

District council officers say that investment of £80,000 would be needed to turn the site into a cafe and the rent would be £20,000 a year.

If the district council was to invest the money, it would take until year five to make a profit.

At Matlock Bus Station, there had been a proposal to turn the 42-seat waiting room into a bike rental shop but this idea appears to have been dropped due to the size of the site.

District council officers say that the site attracts an estimated annual footfall of 222,000 from mainline rail services and 169,000 for use of the public conveniences adjacent to the site.

Councillors are keen for the site to have retail shops and “food on the go” options to help combat anti-social behaviour which currently takes place on the site.

There are four options for this site.

It could remain as it is, have a “pop-up retail facility” installed which would sell hot and cold drinks, pre-wrapped food and newspapers, half of it could be turned into a retail shop with the other half remaining as a waiting room, or the whole site could be turned into two small shops or one large shop.

The running cost of the waiting room is £4,000 a year and in the past five years, the district council has had to spend £6,000 on repairs caused by vandalism.

Only the option for a full conversion into a shop or two shops is thought to turn a profit within five years – during year three.

At Artist’s Corner in Matlock Bath, the district council had been looking to sell off the site, which is also home to a children’s play area and a large car park, for £60,000.

Historically it was a favoured spot for artists, including Joseph Wright of Derby and JMW Turner, to come to draw or paint High Tor.

Council officers say that the building, constructed in the 1950s, would remain as it is, be stripped and turned into a “retail shell” for a cafe or cycle-hire, sell the building at auction, or consider further development options – including a tourism hub.

They say that development of the site as a “tourist hub” could be popular, with either a cafe, or a cycle and or canoe hire options, due to the adjacent River Derwent and the proposed route of the Derwent Valley Cycleway.

It could also be turned into a site for affordable housing, but officers say there is “limited scope” for this.

Meanwhile, the toilet at the children’s play area in Hall Leys Park, Matlock, has been passed over to the town council.

It had required repairs of £23,000 but the town council now has the legal responsibility.

The district council has agreed to give £8,275 to the town council to help with future development and repairs.

The town council’s intention is to retain and maintain public toilets aimed at the “younger clientele” in half of the building and to convert the remaining for storage.

Finally, the Ranger’s Station and accompanying ammo store in Hall Leys Park, Matlock could be put to different uses.

District council officers say that £20,000 is needed for repairs, alternative uses are being sought with businesses invited to come up with ideas for the two buildings.

Previously, it had been stated that the Ranger Station could become home to a food vending machine.

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service