Taking the P***

This report explores the dire state of the UK’s public conveniences, the impact this has on health and wellbeing, and public perceptions of what should be done

The decline of the great British public toilet

In recent decades an increasing pressure on local authority budgets has led to the privatisation or closure of many public toilets. The report sheds light on the health burden of this declining public toilet provision, which falls disproportionately on people with ill health or disability, the elderly, women, outdoor workers, and the homeless. For example, fear of or knowledge of a lack of facilities nearby can tie people to within a small distance of their home, acting as a ‘loo leash’ for many. 

Failure to provide adequate public loos directly hampers some of the UK’s wider public health efforts, such as curbing obesity, and keeping our increasingly elderly population physically active and socially engaged with the community.

The report also explores the public’s perceptions of public toilets – the various reasons why some choose not to use them, as well as the most common courses of action when a public facility is not immediately available. 

The inadequate provision of public loos is a threat to health, mobility, and equality, and it is time these services are considered as essential as streetlights and waste collection.

More than half

of us practise deliberate dehydration

One in five

of the public don’t go outside as often as they would like

rising to

Two in five

among people with conditions requiring frequent toilet use

What we’re calling for

  • The Government to make the provision of public toilets compulsory on a well planned and regulated basis
  • ‘Potty parity’ laws, such as in the US and Canada, to be emulated in the UK to ensure fair provision for women
  • The Government to reverse years of funding cuts to local authorities and invest in our civic infrastructure
  • National and local government to pilot innovative new ways of financing public toilets, such as a “spend a penny” campaign - a one-pence charge drawn from the price of every train and bus ticket to finance free toilets in the local area
  • Break down the toilet taboo: public loos and their role in assisting hygiene, hydration, exercise and more must be freely discussed in public health discourse