The Royal Parks agency (TRP) plans to charge 20p for using the public toilets in its parks, including Richmond Park. They are currently re-letting the contract for cleaning services and the new contract includes a provision for installing machines that will allow charging for entering the toilets. 

TRP give the following explanation for its plans:

“The Royal Parks has recently sought expressions of interest from potential providers of cleaning services to the Agency, including the management of our public toilets. The new contract will allow the introduction of a 20p charge for using the public toilets in the parks, but the charge will not apply to toilets in children’s playgrounds or facilities for the disabled.

We appreciate there may be some concern about the introduction of charges, but we are left with no choice as the alternative would be to close the facilities.

The reason we are doing this now is:

• Cleaning costs have increased by 30% over the last three years to £1.1m per annum. We also need to cover the ongoing and increasing maintenance costs and the cost of essential refurbishment works.
• The annual grant from government is decreasing sharply creating an even greater funding gap that we need to cover in order just to maintain current toilet provision.
• The proposed charge of 20p is modest in comparison with the provision of similar facilities elsewhere in London with 30p and 50p charges being common.

An estimated 8 million people use our toilets each year. The Royal Parks provides nearly a third of all public toilet blocks and nearly 60% of provision within public parks in the Central London boroughs plus Greenwich and Richmond. No other public body comes close to our level of provision and in many cases they charge much more than we are proposing.

Even with the introduction of a 20p charge we anticipate we will still be contributing several hundreds of thousands of pounds a year towards maintaining and cleaning public toilets. With the introduction of a modest charge we expect to retain current toilet provision and also improve standards throughout the parks.

In light of these considerations I hope you agree that the course of action we are proposing is the best one for the parks and its visitors.”

We recognise that TRP needs to raise money to offset cuts in government funding and charging for toilets is much less damaging to the Park than big events. However, in Richmond Park the charges will hit regular users most (in Hyde Park it is largely occasional visitors especially tourists who use the toilets). We welcome your views.