When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
City centre property is not your bog-standard buy
IT could be a desirable residence with the help of an interior designer and a generous spray of air freshener.
Oxford city centre is known for its magnificent buildings but the city council is hoping to attract interest in a more bog-standard proposition – the former public toilets in St Giles.
The loos have now been put up for lease, seven years after they were shut down.
Oxford City Council closed the toilets after health and safety concerns about caught-short pedestrians crossing a busy road.
Now the authority is saying the toilets, which opened in 1895, could be brought back into use – for a guide price of £65,000.
And the city council’s toilet chief says the loos, a short distance from the Randolph Hotel and Ashmolean Museum, could even be used as a home.
City councillor John Tanner, executive board member for cleaner, greener Oxford, said: “They are lovely toilets but they are just in the wrong place and out of date. The traffic in St Giles is very busy.
“They could make a lovely shop, or a store, or even a home for somebody.
“Homes are very much in short supply in Oxford. I hope somebody will have the imagination and courage to make use of them.”
The 119-year-old loos, which along with the Magdalen Street East toilets are the city’s only underground WC facilities, boasted many original features such as copper piping, brass- plated stair rails and black and white mosaic floor tiling.
By the 1980s the toilets had deteriorated with rainwater seeping in and damp penetrating the underground walls. They underwent a £47,000 renovation in 1985 during which concrete skylights were also installed.
The council is offering people the chance to take on a 125-year lease of the facilities, which cover an area of 47 square metres.
Martin Conway is an estate agent for Marriotts, which is managing the lease of the toilets for the council.
He said: “We are putting it on the market with a view to seeing what materialises in terms of interest. There might be an interesting range of ideas about what the toilets can be used for.”
He said the loos would probably be stripped out and could be used for an office or studio.
Marriotts says any use of the toilets would have to be “low intensity” without a heavy stream of visitors because of the site’s location in the middle of a road and that the historic cast iron railings around the entrance would have to be kept.
City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “We have been approached by a number of parties interested in purchasing the property, which is currently unused apart from a small area for storage.
“The toilets were closed to the public some years ago due to antisocial behaviour, safety issues and disability access.
“We felt an open marketing campaign was the best way to ensure any interested parties have an opportunity to express interest. Any purchaser wishing to change the use may require planning consent.”
But Bob Urwin, owner of Martin & Co estate agents, said it might not be realistic to turn the toilets into a home.
He said: “There is no light. The power and water supply is there but it would never get planning permission for residential use.
“It is a good location in the city centre so I would think a cafe or a bar would be a good use.”