LACK of toilets is stopping many parents taking their children to Stratford Library, claims a former mayor.
Cyril Bennis says families are spending less time at the Henley Street library because they fear what could happen if youngsters need the loo in a hurry.
Warwickshire County Council decided to close the toilets with no warning during refurbishment work six years ago.
And shortly afterwards they claimed the move had been welcomed by library-users as the number of people using the toilets had resulted in an unpleasant smell.
They said improvements to the facilities were not cost-effective and staff could quickly redirect people to the nearest public toilet in Windsor Street.
But Mr Bennis argued it was ludicrous to expect the likes of the elderly or those with young children – both encouraged to use the library through events such as computer skills workshops and storytelling – to trek down the road to use the loo.
And he maintains youngsters are now missing out because parents are reluctant to take them there due to the lack of toilet facilities.
He told The Observer: “For more than six years the toilets have been closed because Warwickshire County Council refuse to pay for the cleaning.
“They ripped out the original toilets and destroyed them without giving the community an opportunity to help retain them.
“Parents in Stratford are now refusing to take their children to the library, which is a great sadness for the children in our community who are losing out on an excellent facility.”
It is not the first time Mr Bennis has waded into the toilet debate.
In March 2009 – shortly after the facilities were first closed – he staged a punishing eight-and-a-half hours sit in on a vintage toilet during which he collected 500 signatures on a petition opposing the decision – but council chiefs took no further action.
And just 18 months later, Mr Bennis hauled the same loo from the library to the county council offices at the Shire Hall in another bid to force a rethink.
Speaking about the issue earlier this week, a county council spokeswoman said: “In 2009 we decided to close and remove the customer toilet at Stratford Library.
“The decision followed several years of structural and operational problems as well as numerous complaints from members of the public.
“There is no requirement for the library service to provide a public toilet within its buildings and we have no plans to reinstate a new toilet at Stratford Library.”
She once again advised customers to use facilities at Windsor Street car park but said arrangements could be made in “emergency situations” for children under five attending library events to use staff facilities.