Northern Ireland

£28,000 superloo fails to woo Fintona support

Image caption The state-of-the-art loo is Fintona bound

Residents of a County Tyrone town say they neither want nor need a self-cleaning, low maintenance automated toilet - but they do need more money for other facilities in the town.

It came as something of a surprise to the residents of Fintona that their 40-year-old, open access public toilet block was to be replaced with a single "superloo".

The self-cleaning, 10p-a-time unit is currently in Johnston Park in Omagh.

But councillors have voted to move it.

"We'd had some problems in the Fintona area with vandalism and anti-social behaviour in the past and I think the automated toilet is well-suited to the need there, because the maintenance and upkeep is provided for with the rent that we pay for it," said Sinn Fein councillor Martin McColgan, chairman of the Environmental Services Committee.

"The costs of the automated toilet and the existing block are very comparable."

But local residents say the £28,000 it will cost each year to maintain the superloo could be better spent elsewhere in the town.

Image caption Martin McColgan is happy with the new superloo

"Some time ago I asked Omagh District Council to refurbish the loos, which could be done at very minimal cost.

"Whoever decided to move the superloo to Fintona, at £28,000 a year, hasn't looked into it. £28,000 would keep six people in 15 hours a week in employment here in the town," said local community worker, Kevin Myers.

"Omagh District Council has been investing in the town but we need to plan things out and see where the town is going.

"We've asked for help on derelict buildings, on cleaning up and we've got some help, but the council is back-stepping on that.

"We want the public toilets refurbished and the town tidied up. We want to work with the council but we can't if they're going to come up with these crazy ideas.

"This money should go on the youth, on derelict buildings and on businesses that are here and that want to come to Fintona."

There has been investment in Fintona over the years, with the construction of the Ecclesville equestrian centre in 1996 and a new football pitch, due to open next month.

No 'quick change'

But the £450,000 playing grounds do not have their own changing facilities.

Anyone using the pitch either has to get changed in the back of a car or use the rooms at the Ecclesville centre then walk more than a quarter of a mile to the grounds.

Local people say much more is needed, especially for young people.

"I think the superloo is a waste of money, they should put the money to some other good use. Build a centre for the teenagers, because there's nothing in this town for them to do.

"There's nothing wrong with the toilets we have, they just need a spruce-up," said Maggie Mullan.

Mickey Donnelly, 70, has fond memories of waiting for the train at the site where the public toilets were built on Main Street. He said the area is still a popular meeting place, with many friendships formed on the benches outside.

"Some of the people running the council here should look at other things around this town that need more care and attention than these toilets," he said.

Omagh District Council has said this is the start of a process that will see public conveniences throughout the district upgraded in the coming months.