Plans to build a new Changing Places toilet in St Andrews must be made a priority.
That is the view of Debbie MacCallum, chair of Tourism St Andrews, and local resident Andrew White, who is the parent of a terminally ill child with additional needs.
The new facility is being developed as part of the refurbishment of the Fife Council-owned toilets at the Bruce Embankment.
Changing Places facilities have enough room for a disabled person, their wheelchair, and carers; height adjustable changing bench; a privacy screen; an emergency alarm, and much more.
But Ms MacCallum fears that the £400,000 cost put forward by Fife Council means that the project will be beset by delays.
“A Changing Places facility needs to be a priority,” she said.
“St Andrews is the only town in Fife that doesn’t have one. Most other towns have even more than one, yet St Andrews, which has thousands of visitors every year, cannot offer accessible changing for disabled people and those with additional needs.
“This is needed more than ever with the introduction of Beach Wheelchairs and I am very grateful to the North East Fife Area Committee for pledging £100,000.
“However, the £400,000 price quoted by the council – which seems to have come from an idea to install some special external cladding – means this could be beset by delays. These facilities only cost around £50,000 so I don’t understand why the council has come up with a proposal which would see the cost rise so much that it may never happen.”
Andrew White said: “As the father of a severely disabled three-year-old boy, there are no safe changing facilities for him in St Andrews. The only options available to us are to change him on a toilet floor or to return home. As he gets bigger, a hoist will be required.
“My concern is not just for my son – visitors are being put off visiting St Andrews as there is no such facility in place.
“As the town is so focussed on tourism, priority should be given to such a facility.
“I welcome the proposed implementation of a Changing Places at the Bruce Embankment, but consideration should also be given to further facilities in the centre of town and at East Sands.
“There are 10 in Dundee, seven in Kirkcaldy, three in Glenrothes, two in Leven/Methil, two in Cupar and one in Anstruther.
“As a town, we should not be relying on the charity PAMIS to provide their Mobiloo service for events such as the St Andrews Day celebrations at the weekend.”
The need for Changing Places facilities in the town has been backed by local MP Stephen Gethins, who said it was important that St Andrews is as accessible as possible.
He said: “Tourism St Andrews has done so much to bring visitors to St Andrews, boosting the local economy and making sure everyone knows it is a fantastic place to live and visit.
“I wrote to Fife Council to ask for an update and it has been made clear that external funding is still required before the deadline of June next year. I am aware the new Madras College will have such a facility and while I hope that will be built as soon as possible, it is important everything is done to ensure alternative provision and make sure St Andrews is as fully accessible as possible.”