Anger over the continuing lack of public toilets in Brixton and the resulting fouling of homes and streets dominated the annual general meeting of the Brixton Neighbourhood Forum in Pop Brixton last night (29 July).
Campaigner Rob Goacher, founder of the Take The P Out Of Brixton campaign, displayed photographs he had taken of what he said was a Lambeth council employee pissing outside his house and five men pissing in a line – also outside his house.
Local MP Helen Hayes listened as he and others demanded to know why public conveniences in Windrush Square – closed for 30 years – were up for rent when, in March this year, he and other campaigners had been given hope by Lambeth council that they might be reopened.
Forum members said they had been raising the issue with the councillors for at least 10 years.
Tina Jennings, organiser of the Brixton Night Market, was one of the people who visited the Windrush Square toilets with Lambeth councillors and had understood that they might be re-opened.
But, she said, there was, apparently, no money to solve the problem. “So the residents have to put up and shut up”. Their concerns were not being treated seriously, she said. “I was at a meeting last week. I looked out of the window and there was a man peeing against the wall”.
An average Friday night might see more than 20,000 people on the streets of Brixton. But there were no public toilets. “So where do they go?”
The meeting discussed what would happen when, in a few weeks, all-night Tube trains will run to Brixton at weekends. Speakers suggested that there should be toilets in the station. Some, for staff, were there already, said one forum member. “I have used them”.
Brixton Business Improvement District director Michael Smith said the question had been discussed with Transport for London.
The MP and local police chief Commander Richard Wood, who was also at the meeting, agreed to discuss the problem further with representatives of the forum. No Lambeth councillors were at the meeting.
A council spokesman said: “We have engaged with the community consistently on this anti-social behaviour issue, and ideas have been developed with residents to find solutions. Work to tackle this anti-social behaviour is ongoing.
“In Brixton we provide a free public toilet as well as pop-up urinals. The former WC in Windrush Square has been closed for decades, so we are asking that expressions of interest for renting the site incorporate publically accessible toilets.
“We also have a community toilet scheme in Brixton where businesses open their facilities to the public. And while the onus is on individuals to take responsibility for their actions, we have used splash back paint in key locations to discourage street urination, introduced on-the-spot fines and backed this action with a public awareness campaign.”
Forum members also discussed libraries and parks.
They were entertained by inspirational rap from Michael Groce and a stunning performance by Helen McDonald of songs made famous by Billie Holiday.