Public Toilets

We are losing our public toilets.
A lack of political will, shrinking local authority budgets, and limited incentives have resulted in environments that prevent people from leaving their homes, restricting access to work, leisure, and social interactions.
  • Local Authority expenditure on public toilets has halved since 2010 (–£64m).
  • According to Business Rates, a quarter of toilets closed in that time, down from 5,100 to 3,900.
  • Three quarters (74%) feel there are not enough public toilets in their area.
  • One in five (20%) leave home less often as a result.
The CFPI believes that to promote public toilets, the UK Government must:
Embed public toilet investment within infrastructure funding bids by defining processes for valuation within the Treasury Green Book.
Provide consistent resourcing and accountability for public toilets through the Public Health Outcomes Framework and Ringfenced Grant.
Create a new model of public toilet accessibility investment by building on the success of the Changing Places Fund.


BBC Reality Check

BBC Reality Check conducted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests in 2010 through 2018. According to this data:

  • UK councils stopped maintaining 13% of public toilets between 2010 and 2018, down from 5,159 to 4,486.
  • In 2016, the BBC identified ten major councils in England and Wales with no public toilets.
  • By 2018, this absence had increased to 37 areas, including economic centres such as Liverpool and Milton Keynes.

The BBC identified changes in toilet management by principal councils. In many instances, rather than shutting down toilets entirely, ownership and management was transferred from principal authorities to parish and town councils. Cornwall Council managed just 14 toilets in 2018 compared to 253 in 2010, a decrease of 94%. Over 200 of these had been transferred to parish and town councils.


The closure and transfer to parish councils of public toilets is best demonstrated through local authority expenditure:

Real terms total local authority expenditure on public conveniences in England

(£ Million; 2021/22 prices)

No Data Found

Local authority public convenience expenditure has declined by over half since 2010, from £115m to £51m.

Business Rates

The CFPI welcomes the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Act 2021, providing 100% business rate relief for public conveniences. This removes the £2,600 burden from essential civic assets.

Business rates provide the most consistent source of the quantity of public toilets in England and Wales.

This data recognises conveniences such as standalone conveniences as well as those located in public buildings including car parks and shopping centres. Whilst Business Rates are not the most reliable absolute measure of toilets, Valuation Office definitions have not changed in this time and provide a standardised comparator. 

In 2000, 6,087 public conveniences in England and Wales were recognised by Business Rates. By 2022, this had fallen to 3,900.


Royal Society of Public Health

For their Taking the P*** report, the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) conducted a survey of 2,000 UK adults on perceptions of public toilets, ideas for how toilets could be funded, health implications, and experiences of women’s access. 

  • Three in four (74%) stated that there were not enough toilets in their area.​
  • One in five (20%) felt unable to leave home as often as they liked as a result.
  • 60% of 18-24 year olds believed there were not enough public toilets, increasing to 85% of those aged 55-64.
  • 43% of those with conditions requiring frequent toilet use avoided leaving home.
  • 84% of women and 69% of men wanted greater provision of toilets for women.
  • Over half (56%) restricted fluid intake before going out to reduce the need to find a toilet.

Find their report here

Age UK London

Age UK London’s Loo Leash surveyed almost 600 older Londoners regarding their views of public toilets in their Boroughs.

  • 81% said the public toilets in the borough where they live are bad.
  • 40% spent less time in a place because of a lack of toilets.
  • 9 in 10 considered toilet provision before making a journey.
  • 46% were not confident directing someone to the nearest public toilet.

Older Londoners believed toilet provisions were not good enough in:

  • 70% – the high street
  • 58% – parks
  • 30% – residential areas

Read the full paper here

Levelling Up

Levelling Up represents a generational opportunity to restore pride in place. The CFPI welcomes the various grants available, principally the Regeneration Investment Theme within the Levelling Up Fund, the Future High Streets Fund, and the Changing Places fund.

The Levelling Up Fund (LUF)

Levelling Up Fund application costs must be compliant with HM Treasury’s Green Book and DLUHC Appraisal Guide.

The Green Book applies to proposals that concern public spending, taxation, regulations, and changes to the use of existing public assets and resources. It supports designs that achieve government policy objectives and social value.

  • Air quality
  • Crime
  • Private Finance Initiatives
  • Environmental
  • Transport
  • Public Service Transformation
  • Asset valuation
  • Competition
  • Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions

Whilst the Green Book recognises recreational and health value non-market measures. However, public toilets are not recognised by these, and processes for defining them are unclear. 

The CFPI proposes that the Treasury Green Book Supplementary Guidance describes processes for appraising public toilet. As a consequence, assessments of civic value will necessarily include and account for public conveniences.

Whitechapel Road Improvement Programme (WRIP), Tower Hamlets

£9.3 million from the first round of the Levelling Up Fund was committed to help Tower Hamlets regenerate an area which suffers from crime and anti-social behavioural issues, significant noise and air pollution, a limited evening economy and poor urban realm spaces.

The WRIP comprises of three strands:

Public Realm: enhancements to the quality, organisation and functionality of the street to increase accessibility, wayfinding and safety.

Market Stalls: upgrades to stalls to create a consistent design and improved shopping environment.

Market Management: Determining a vision for the long-term success of the market and improving the day-to-day functioning.

Appraisal of public toilet provision was not made within WRIP proposals. Accessibility, whilst included within concerns of motion, does not expand within the WRIP to that of access for those who spend less time in public space as a product of limited toilets.

When raised by engagement, the Council referred to the consideration of a community toilet scheme which allows members of the public to use the toilet facilities in a range of approved local businesses and other organisations during their opening hours.

Although community toilet schemes are a positive initiative, a significant civic and commercial regeneration that does not introduce public conveniences demonstrates the necessity of guidance emphasising their vital role.

The Changing Places Fund (CPF)

There are currently around 1,800 registered Changing Places Toilets in the UK – these are larger accessible toilets for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets, with equipment such as hoists, privacy screens, adult-sized changing benches, peninsula toilets and space for carers.

Following campaigning by the Changing Places Consortium and partners across the charitable sector, in the 2020 Budget the Government committed to mandating the provision of Changing Places Toilets in new public buildings, and launched a £30 million Changing Places Fund (CPF) for District and Unitary local authorities.

The CFPI welcomes the Changing Places Fund and the government’s observation that ‘where people shop, go out, or travel should not be determined by their disability.’

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities should build on the success of the Changing Places Fund by developing a sustainable model for public toilet accessibility investment.

Health and Social Care

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 conferred responsibilities for public health on local authorities, charging them with a duty to improve population health.

Alongside the Act, Public Health England (PHE) was established to provide evidence, advice, and support for local authorities to deliver their responsibilities. 

In 2021, PHE was succeeded by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID). OHID represented a welcome shift to addressing health disparities that exist across the country, helping people live longer, healthier lives and reducing the pressures on the UK’s health and care system.

OHID was marked by the Health and Social Care Secretary as a ‘new era of preventative healthcare’.

Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF)

OHID formalises expectations of local authorities through the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF).

The PHOF measures outcomes through four domains: ‘Wider Determinants‘, ‘Health Improvement‘, ‘Health Protection‘, ‘Healthcare and Premature Mortality‘. None of the indicators recognise the value of public toilets.

A core tenet of the UK’s public health policy is to encourage outdoor exercise, reducing obesity and keeping an increasingly elderly population fit and engaged with their communities. Declining public toilet provision falls disproportionately on those with ill health or disability, the elderly, women, outdoor workers, and the homeless. Each of these are at-risk communities identified by OHID.

In keeping with its mandate to promote healthy activity, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities should expand the Public Health Outcomes Framework to account for the function of public toilets as a preventative measure.

Public Health Ringfenced Grant (PHG)

The majority of local government health expenditure comes through a grant from the Department of Health and Social Care, for which the Director for Public Health is accountable. For 2022 to 2023, the Public Health Ringfenced Grant (PHG) to local authorities totals £3.4 billion. 

The Prescribed Functions of the PHG include physical activity, obesity tackling measures, and social inclusion. However, no reference within guidance is made to public toilet provision, despite its influential role.

The Department for Health and Social Care should include public toilets within the Prescribed Functions of the Public Health Ringfenced Grant, providing funding and accountability for convenience provision.


The CFPI acknowledges the significant progress made towards civic and community spaces, and welcomes the emphasis on ‘pride in place’ championed by the Government.

However, there has been a limited acknowledgement within civic financing models of the ability for public toilets to motivate community engagement and sustainable physical activity.

The CFPI recommends that to promote public toilets, the UK must:
Embed public toilet investment within infrastructure funding bids by defining processes for valuation within the Treasury Green Book.
Provide consistent maintenance resourcing and accountability for public toilets through the Public Health Outcomes Framework and Ringfenced Grant.
Create a new model of public toilet accessibility investment by building on the success of the Changing Places Fund.​