Sunday, 13 September 2009

Battle for composting toilet on site rages on

There has been some controversy about our site's plan to build a composting toilet (just one!). Our site is one of the largest in the U.K., I believe.

One brave Liberal Democrat councillor I talked to has agreed to donate £500 of his expenses allowance to support the plan. In a street surgery he told me that some other councillors refused to support the project saying it was 'too political'. (Obviously there is a revolutionary plot behind the idea isn't there?) No seriously, given the diversity of social standing of our plot holders - we've got everyone from people with flash cars and huge gardens at home to people on the breadline - I can't think of anything which would be less political - and if you ask me, the phrase 'it's too political' is just a poor excuse to do nothing.

On the ground, as an organic gardener - I'm well aware we have less than basic facilities which don't appear to be anywhere near the national standards or best practice seen on other allotment sites.

Dozens of plots are off the mains altogether. Watering is often a problem for this reason - as organic gardeners we mulch a great deal, according to Organic guidelines to save water - but at present we have one small corporation water butt between thirty-odd plot holders - no stand pipe - and this butt is often unusable - in hot weather the water pressure is non-existent and you turn up at the plot with a few hours to spare only to find there is no water because the butt isn't refilling fast enough. Many of us have installed extra butts to collect water from our sheds, but the situation still represents a difficulty for anyone with any sort of health challenge as all this often means carrying water for quite a distance.

Our lack of basic facilities also affects our ability to reach out to the community. One fellow parent remarked in exasperation one day: "They ought to try toilet training a toddler on a site with no hand-washing facilities - a mile or more from the nearest loo..." I couldn't agree more.

So much for local and national government rhetoric about healthy living and encouraging people (and children) to take more exercise and eat more fruit and veg. Much of it seems to be nothing more than lip-service.

We have disabilities in the family - and whilst if you are able-bodied, squatting behind the shed or over a bucket may be an ( adventurous) option - for anyone with a disability - it presents problems. When we have an Open Day, or visitors to the site - I lose visitors. As soon as they find out the toilets are so far away, many with 'toileting challenges' have to head for home.

It's time our Council shifted their priorities and started to understand the true meaning of the word 'sustainable development' . They've just spent £15 million odd on new headquarters for themselves which allow them to sup champagne whilst overlooking the racecourse in comfort. See this link: Still - what can you expect - it's only a few years since they they tried to sell our site off to build a tennis court....plot holders have got long memories, thank goodness.

Attitudes to people with disabilities could do with a shake-up too. After attempting a discussion about disability rights with a council representative on Friday I was told that 'disabled people' needed plots 'near the road'. I had to point out the Equal Opportunities basics here: that not everyone has a disability you can see for starters - (what about mental health issues?) - and not everyone is in a wheelchair(so access requirements are different).

Finally - surely what we should be aiming towards is empowering people - not shunting them off in some sort of car park ghetto. We have no intention of moving to be 'near the road' - when we've put in sustained effort to convert our plot from derelict for the past four years and are just beginning to reap the benefits.

So - readers of this blog - who WOULD like to learn more about the benefits of composting toilets and recognise their advantages in terms of saving costs - and water - I'm enclosing this link - there is a wealth of information out there if you search for 'Composting Toilets' but this link is good to start - click here.

AND dear readers - don't log off without signing our petition please! You don't need to put your postal address down, and you can click the options to hide your email address too, if you wish. Thanks very much fellow plotters - we really appreciate your help. Sign the petition here.

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