To grout or not to grout - that was the Town Councillors' question

Written by Tony Millett.

Work on the refurbishment of the (now closed) George Lane public toilets is due to start on March 1 and take a little over a month.  The Town Council has secured a £90,000 loan and the contract with the selected contractor has been drawn up.

However this progress almost came to a juddering halt at the Council's Property Committee meeting (February 20) with a fierce debate over new flooring for the three cubicles.

Councillors had wanted to keep the existing composite flooring, but it has to come up to rectify some 'drainage issue' (which thankfully remained unspecified.)  The Project Manager and the contractor suggested using slate-like tiles.  A sample was passed round for inspection by the committee members.

These tiles were strongly opposed by Councillor Marian Hannaford-Dobson who called them: "Horrendous,'s a rubbish tile...I suggest we get another contractor."  

She was supported by Councillor Margaret Rose, who asked whether the tiles had to have grouting between each tile.  Grouting on the floor was not going to be used in any Hannaford-Dobson-Rose recommended public toilet.

The alternative to these tiles was to put down new composite flooring at a cost of just under £5,000 plus £900 a day for labour.

Not even the Town Clerk's promise of waterproof grouting placated the two councillors.  So Councillor Hannaford-Dobson called for a named vote - which she lost by a large majority.

When it came to a vote to approve the Town Clerk's progress report on the George Lane toilets, Councillor Hannaford-Dobson did not vote - did not even abstain: "I'm just too angry."

Councillor Fogg suggested that the classic French satirical novel Clochemerle should be made compulsory reading for all Town Councillors. The book satirises conflicts between Catholics and Republicans in 1930s France through the story of the installation of a urinal in Clochemerle's village square.