The Chairman of Portadown 2000 has criticised Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s lack of public consultation on the future of Portadown’s public toilet provision.
Historically, Council and Portadown 2000 had an agreement for the provision of multiple services, including the town market and public toilets, to be run from Portadown 2000’s premises on William Street.
However, Council has taken the decision to bring to an end this service level agreement as of March 31.
A live tendering process is currently ongoing with regard to the future provision of public toilets in Portadown and Council has confirmed public toilets will be provided at the Town Hall on Edward Street in the interim.
Reflecting on this decision, the Chairman of Portadown 2000, Brian Walker, said the company “takes no delight” in this outcome and branded the lack of public scrutiny around the decision as “unfortunate”.
“It is unfortunate that Council choose to hide this entire matter from public scrutiny,” said Mr Walker.
“Whilst Portadown 2000 bitterly regrets that there is little tangible evidence of any real commitment in some quarters to regenerate the town centre, the company continues to devote its efforts to the said regeneration.
“The company takes absolutely no delight in the fact the town centre is to be deprived of public toilet facilities within the next few weeks when the public has been denied any consultation process on this.”
Despite this, Mr Walker has confirmed Portadown 2000 is still willing to meet with Council in an effort to keep the public toilets in West Street operational.
“The company wishes to state publicly, for the purpose of record, that it is willing to enter into discussions with any council officer to ensure this unnecessary problem does not occur,” said Mr Walker.
“Portadown 2000 is convinced the objectives of both Council and the company can be achieved but it is unprecedented that any attempt to discuss the matter, in a meaningful way, is rejected out of hand.”
While not commenting directly on suggestions that attempts to discuss the matter have been rejected, a council spokesperson noted the need to ensure the integrity of live procurement exercises.
“Council currently has a live tendering exercise for public toilet provision in Portadown,” said a Council spokesperson.
“In the interim public toilet provision will be provided at Portadown Town Hall in the heart of the town.
“Last week an expression of interest process closed, the process allowed interested parties to enter into dialogue around what the markets provision in Portadown could be, a tendering process will follow.
“These procurement exercises need to be completed to ensure their integrity, the opportunity for dialogue with all interested parties is included within these processes.”
Responding to suggestions this decision was hidden from public scrutiny, a Council spokesperson said: “Many of the discussions were held in confidential business as they related to staffing matters and commercially sensitive information,” said the spokesperson.
“Under Schedule 6 Part 1 of the Local Government Act (NI) 2014, Council can apply certain exemptions to the release of information and in this case Exemption No 3 of Schedule 6 Part 1 was applied as the information related to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the Council holding that information).
“Council is fully committed to the residents and traders of Portadown after what has been a very difficult trading year for Portadown and for businesses right across the borough.
“A number of schemes are being worked on for Portadown to help the town with the reopening phase in the weeks and months ahead”.