Herefordshire Council has secured nearly £300,000 from the Department for Levelling Up, Homes, and Communities for Changing Places toilets to improve public facilities.

The £287,000 award will allow the development of three new accessible toilets across the county, including one at the Courtyard Theatre on Edgar Street, Aspire Living's community hub on Canal Road, and the Maylord Orchards shopping precinct, which will complement the new library and learning resource centre due to open in spring 2024.

Changing Places toilets provide support to 10 million people in England and Wales with disabilities, allowing them to enjoy everyday activities in safety and comfort. The generous size of the toilets can accommodate a height-adjustable changing bench, a peninsular toilet, and grab rails, along with a ceiling hoist.

The council's corporate grants team consulted with disability groups, including Accessible Herefordshire, Hereford Disability United, and the local Mencap team, to ensure that the facilities meet the needs of the community. This news is a boost, especially for those with multiple learning and other disabilities who struggle to use standard facilities due to limited mobility.

Construction on the new toilets will begin as soon as possible to ensure they are ready for public use by April 2024. The council would like to hear from other organizations interested in developing similar facilities and invites them to email [email protected] to discuss their plans.

Councillor Gemma Davies, cabinet member for commissioning, procurement, and assets, said the new toilets are not just good news for disabled people but for everyone in Herefordshire. "Having much better facilities will make it attractive to all. This is welcome news in more ways than one," she said.

Robyn Barratt, marketing and audience development manager at the Courtyard, welcomed the funding and said the new facilities will make a difference to customers. Ian Harper, service quality director at Aspire, said Changing Places will have an impact not only for the people they support at Aspire but for the whole community, promoting freedom of choice, dignity, and privacy for all.