No, you've not been drinking – portable urinals are being trialled in historic Chester to stop drunken lads relieving themselves on the Rows.

Over 10 weekends the open air loos are being left overnight at city centre ‘hotspots’.

At the end of the £9,000 trial, Cheshire West and Chester Council will assess whether the idea floats or should be flushed down the pan.

So far public reaction to the giant-sized ‘potties’, which allow up to three men to go at any one time, has been massive. A staggering 40,000 people have viewed our Facebook page showing a photo of a urinal in the shadow of the Eastgate clock.

 

Opinion is divided, with supporters arguing the loos will protect the city’s priceless heritage from the mainly young males who urinate on our streets up to 30 times a night.

But many readers feel the very public toilets are indecent, out-of-keeping in a tourist city, a perverts’ paradise and unhygienic because there is nowhere to wash your hands.

Women say it's discriminatory because there is nothing for them to go on - although this hasn't stopped a minority using the loos for a laugh.

Police were consulted over the project and the top brass are broadly supportive but will keep an open mind because of ‘a bit of tomfoolery’ last weekend as the trial began.

The Chronicle asked for a sample of views from people who stumbled across the urinals in Chester city centre after they appeared without any advance publicity.

Student Gina Powell, 17, from Upton, Chester, said: “I didn't realise it was real at first. I thought it was a joke. I think it's a good idea, but only if it's out at night.”

Upton High student Ryan Gerrard, 17, said: “It's a bit strange really. You wouldn't expect to see anything like that in the city centre.”

Bethan Lloyd, 17, who also goes to Upton High, added: “Girls can be just as bad as boys at night time. If there's something like that for a man there should be something equally for a woman.”

Jon Brain, 24, who lives near the racecourse, said: “My friend used one last night and I've got a picture of him!”

Jay Stone, 22, from Bromborough, has seen portable toilets for men and women on the streets of London when he visited at new year and thinks they’re ‘cool’.

Chris Harrop, from Newtown, said: “They often find a corner on The Rows, which is shocking. There aren't enough public toilets in Chester but I don't agree with that.I wouldn't want to be seen by anybody doing my business.”

Anthony Bethune, 21, from Chester, was happy to pay a visit to the street loo. “I've got a five year ASBO. I couldn't wait for the day to pee in the street!” he said. “I didn't think a city would ever have these.”

But Bill, 75, from Chester, said: “It's disgusting. It's beyond all public decency, standing there in the street having a pee and there's everybody passing you. I've been around, I've seen active service and that to me is absolutely filth.”

Friends Lin Farrell and Kirsty Sanderson, both from Chester, were ‘horrified’ on stumbling across the urinals during a night out.

Kirsty, 37, said: “You can get done for indecent exposure and you're encouraging indecent exposure. I'm not a prude but I do disagree with it. Boys need to learn to control themselves. What do we do?”

Lin, 38, added: “Chester is a beautiful place so why are we defacing it with something as ugly as this? This is going to change the feel of Chester.”

And she fears the loos will go against Chester's bid to become British capital of culture 2017.

Police and council unite over pilot scheme

One of the new urinals on Bridge Street
One of the new urinals on Bridge Street
 

New portable loos were ‘well used’ during the first weekend of a 10-week trial, according to Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The three-bay urinals, for male-use only, are being installed between 6pm and 6am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in Town Hall Square, Eastgate Street, Foregate Street and Bridge Street.

The council estimates up to 30 incidents of public urination taking place within the city every night and this is the top heritage crime on The Rows.

In the past the council has taken a hard-line on people caught urinating by taking them to court but has faced criticism at the lack of public toilets available late at night which the new loos help address.

Cllr Lynn Riley, executive member for community and environment, said: “For some time now, we have been highlighting how the very fabric of our world famous Rows is being destroyed by public urination late at night –  and this equally applies to other parts of our unique heritage city.

“This pilot is one more step in our approach to tackling this unpleasant and damaging anti social behaviour from a small number of people who are usually too drunk to behave better.

“We do know that the majority of offenders are male and under 25 years of age and anticipate that the introduction of temporary urinals should have a positive impact. This is a pilot scheme and we will be monitoring this closely.

“Given the extra facilities this removes any excuse for being caught short. Anyone caught urinating on The Rows or in the street and not using the urinals will face prosecution and have a choice of paying a fine or taking an early morning walk with our Streetscene staff and watch as they clear up the disgusting mess left behind during the night. Please think before you have that last drink!”

The council says other areas have installed urinal facilities including Guildford, Westminster, Reading, Lambeth, Stroud, Bristol, Islington, Belfast and Camden Town although in some cases the design of the loos appear to afford more discretion to the user.

Inspector Ian Thorp, of Chester Inner Neighbourhood Policing Team, welcomes the pro-active approach as ‘a step forward’ but wants to see the outcome of the trial before making up his mind.

He said: “People are damaging the city through their unacceptable anti-social behaviour in relation to urination on The Rows. People don’t realise the damage being caused to priceless parts of our cultural and historic centre.”

The inspector said any ‘poor behaviour’ around the loos would be picked up by CCTV operators and passed onto police. “They are new and we have got a bit of tomfoolery going on, but that’s all it is at the moment,” he explained.

Inspector Thorp continued: “We have been going to meetings over issues around urination and working in harmony with the council for the last two or three years. There has been a slight improvement but it’s not got rid of the problem.

”The inspector, who wants the pilot to runs its course before coming to a judgment, concluded: “It’s an option being tried out. If it doesn’t work out we will have to look at some other options.”

Feedback on Facebook and Twitter

An urinal near the town hall
An urinal near the town hall
 

Four portable toilets in Chester’s historic streets have gone viral!

The response to the simple question ‘What do you think of the new portable loos in Chester city centre?’ on Facebook and Twitter garnered the most comments ever on our Chester Chronicle Facebook page.

At the time of going to press, the post had been seen by more than 40,000 people, with more than 1,000 talking about it and 140 people sharing it.  Comments came from people all over the world including Jersey, Belgium and the United States.

Our photograph, snapped by chief reporter David Holmes when he was in the city centre last weekend, led readers to question the logic of putting one of the portable urinals outside the Disney store against a backdrop of the iconic Eastgate clock.

JT James Duxbury III posted: ‘These are disgraceful, this is this worst thing Chester council have done for a long time. It's an eyesore and its going to end in tears. I can just see people having things thrown at them and being pushed over whilst trying to urinate!  It's letting the second most photographed timepiece in the world down in this photo too! Get rid and use the materials and £s on something useful.’

There were concerns about the lack of washing facilities and how unsuitable the toilets were for women.

Peter Burgess posted: ‘Always good to see blokes not washing their hands afterwards, going into shops and bars etc. spreading the love.’

JC Smoothe was more vociferous with: ‘ As much as I loathe your average races punter (drunken, antisocial yobs in suits), I'm not against these. However: don't put them in SUCH a busy spot (a little more to the side, with some signs up), and make some alternatives for women! Add some hand-washing facilities, and it's a decent alternative to having scumbags p***ing on walls.”

Others suggested that Cheshire West and Chester council might be better spending the money on improving existing public toilets.

Gareth Wallage said: ‘Even between these proposed times 6pm-6am on a weekend I think this is totally, totally wrong!!! WAKE UP CHESTER COUNCIL & PULL YOURSELVES TOGETHER YOU STUPID CLOWNS!!! This is not the place for public toilets. Judging from the picture where this is there are public loos around the corner in Frodsham Street.’

Another Facebook fan suggested re-opening toilets in Grosvenor Park  or the empty unit near to Cafe Nero and Primark on Foregate Street.

As suspected there were many quips, most of which we can’t print in the paper but Darren Owen’s ‘Is this for real? Plastic outdoor toilets in this historic town? Whoever had this idea needs a P45’ was clean enough.

And Matt Murtagh’s: ‘Will they be known as 'the turdis' as used by Dr Pwho ?