Skip to main content

Newsletter - Fri 29 Sep, 2023

In this issue...

  • A petition to reopen park toilets in Memorial Park and Lady Neville Recreation Ground, will now go to the borough's executive committee, following an unsuccessful attempt by the Conservative administration to reject the proposal outright. The council says it does have tenants lined up for the cafes in which the toilets sit.

  • The Harlequin theatre will be closed (Opens in a new window) until Friday 20 October, after the discovery of RAAC, the building material that's been making the national news. The adjoining Redhill library has now reopened after closing early on Wednesday.

  • Three children's play areas are getting a revamp (Opens in a new window) in October, in Woodhatch Park, Ifold Park (Earlswood) and Howards Close Recreation Ground (Walton-on-the-Hill)


  • Licensing permission has been given for The Bulls Head, in Reigate High Street, to serve alcohol from a rear outside bar. To help win approval, the applicant, the Punch pub company, agreed to limit the hours for the whole of the outside to 11pm, whether alcohol was being sold at the bar or not: a reduction from the existing 12/12.30/1am limit (depending on the day of the week). The borough's environmental protection team had wanted 10pm. Draft minutes of the meeting on Tuesday 19 September are here (Opens in a new window), meeting video here (Opens in a new window).

  • M25 overnight closures, clockwise Junction 8 to 9, continue tonight (Friday) and also next week. As before, Monday - Thursday evenings it's 10pm - 5.30am and Fridays 11pm - 6am. Information is on the Surrey Roadworks map (Opens in a new window)and at National Highways (Opens in a new window).

  • In Horley, the Archway theatre's latest production (Opens in a new window), The Actress, runs until 7 October. The "bitter-sweet comedy" is set between the 1920s and 30s, and dramatises events backstage as a colourful and complex actress makes her farewell performance, while dealing with unexpected visitors. "A smart, intelligent and very amusing play", says the Archway.

Council chamber defeat for Conservatives over park toilet petition

  • The closed Memorial Park cafe in Redhill (May photo)

Reigate & Banstead’s Conservative leadership were outvoted last week in the council chamber when they tried to reject outright a petition that called for toilets to be reopened in borough parks.   The matter will now go to the (Conservative-controlled) executive.

The facilities in Memorial Park (Redhill) and Lady Neville Recreation Ground (Banstead), have been shut since the accompanying cafes closed in October and December 2022 (Opens in a new window).  The council did later install temporary WCs in Memorial Park, in June, coinciding with concerns on social media about the lack of toilets.

In Reigate’s Priory Park, the toilets already had separate access meaning they stayed open when the cafe shut at the end of February this year.  Temporary WCs were only needed when refurbishment began in June. 

All three cafes remain vacant, despite the council’s earlier hopes (Opens in a new window)for a summer reopening.  Tenants are now lined up, with leases being finalised, the council has said.

The petition (Opens in a new window) calling for the reopening of toilets in Memorial Park and Lady Neville, and for those toilets to have separate access and separate hours from the cafes, gained 586 signatures.  Under council rules, that level of support meant a debate in the council chamber, which happened last Thursday (21 September).   (Video is here (Opens in a new window).)

Earlswood resident Rachel Wood told the meeting: “A key point to my petition is that the park toilets should remain open irrespective of the cafe closures.  Providing access to toilets in the parks will enable everyone to participate in park life in a full and unrestricted fashion.  It will ultimately attract more users of the parks and boost the local economy.”

She said that the council could create “proper partitions” that separate the toilets from the eating areas. “We've already seen this is possible with the Priory Park cafe,” Ms Wood added.  

Alternatively, she said, the council could create community hubs in the cafes, using developer money paid through the Community Infrastructure Levy to create warm spaces in the winter and sustainable hubs in the summer.

A council report (Opens in a new window) to the meeting said that park cafes are not "designated council public toilets", but did go on to describe toilets in Priory Park as "public toilets” that would be "open from around dawn to dusk".

Speaking in the debate, Cllr Jonathan Essex (Green) rejected the idea that toilets in parks were not public.   He said Memorial Park’s £1.4 million upgrade in 2014 had included the new cafe and toilets, and that this had been public money.   

Highlighting questions raised by the Greens in March (Opens in a new window) and July (Opens in a new window), he said: “It's disappointing that months later we still have portaloos, but no visible signs yet of park cafes and toilets being fully reopened, although earlier promises were made that this would be done before the summer months.”

“If there's no private tenant surely the council should at least have opened the cafe and the proper toilets in the park for limited hours.”

Observing that the council runs community centres and the Harlequin theatre, he said: “If we can't find a private operator for a year, why not do it ourselves?  We have the staff, we have the skills, we could do it. The council, I think, should get the basics right. We've spent millions of pounds buying up lands in the name of Horley Business Park, [and] gambled over a million pounds (Opens in a new window) on a failed healthcare startup called Pathway for Care. 

“Surely it's more important to spend the comparatively small amount of money to keep open toilets and cafes in our public parks."

He said he was against the notion of there being “full toilet facilities" in Priory Park but not in others.

Fellow Green councillor, Ruth Ritter, highlighted the health benefits of parks, and the importance of toilets to people’s decision to use them.  She also noted the disproportionate effect on women caused by a lack of toilets, given that they tended to be out in the daytime more often, caring for children and others, and had more physical reasons to need to use the toilets.

Executive member Cllr Andrew King (Conservative) thanked Ms Wood and residents for their time engaging with the petition, but recommended councillors reject it, on the grounds that operators in Memorial Park and Lady Neville would provide toilets in trading hours, while toilets in Priory Park would be operated by the council.

He said that given the toilet commitment from cafe operators, and against the background of high energy costs, the economic climate and the unstable hospitality sector, “the council has achieved a solid financial outcome of re-letting those park cafes, which will provide ongoing amenity for residents in the long term".

Cllr King said that providing any new facilities would be a financial pressure, with public toilets generally costing more than £10,000 per year per site. 

He said his experience as a parent meant he had "enormous sympathy" with arguments raised during the debate, but there was “a balance to be struck between increasing additional services and the financial burden and the pressures that are on the council and therefore our residents”.    

Cllr King said: “I would propose to note the request of the petitioners, but to take no further action at this stage.”

However, in a political upset, councillors voted against that proposal by 15 votes to 14, with 2 abstentions.

The Greens then had a go, instead proposing support of the petition as stated.  However, that too was defeated, by 15 votes to 14 with 3 abstentions.

It fell to council leader Cllr Richard Biggs (Conservative) to try to break the impasse.   He said: “While I do appreciate the sentiments of this petition, there are some serious cost implications that as a council we must consider going forward.” 

His suggestion that the matter be referred to the (Conservative-controlled) executive, to tie in with the council’s annual budget setting process, was passed by 17 votes to 14, with 2 abstentions.

Of the 45 councillors on the council, 11 of them (4 Greens, 4 Conservatives and 3 Residents) earlier gave apologies for being absent from the meeting.

During the meeting Cllr King said that work on Priory Park’s toilets was due to complete “by December”.

The meeting also heard that toilets at Horley Recreation Ground, mentioned in the petition, are the responsibility of Horley Town Council.

  • Inside Memorial Park cafe: the toilets are the green, purple and pink single doors. (Photo from May)

RAAC problem closes Harlequin theatre

To read the rest of this newsletter, and receive future ones in your inbox, why not sign up for a free trial?

Sign up (Opens in a new window)


Would you like to be the first to write a comment?
Become a member of and start the conversation.
Become a member