Revamp: the toilets became a community asset in 2011. Photograph: CIS

The local group in charge of the public toilets on Brooksby’s Walk has accused the council of “stealing a community asset” – after finding out its lease will not be renewed in February.

The Clapton Improvement Society (CIS) signed a five-year agreement in 2013 to run the premises, which has been converted to include a café.

The council says it agreed to lease the space out for £1 per year to “allow CIS to refurbish the property and generate profit for community projects”.

The group has since spent £40,000 upgrading the facilities, including £10,000 for a solar array, £12,000 for a canopy and £6,000 for a sprinkler system.

A quarter of that money came from a lottery grant, with the rest donated or loaned by CIS members.

But a Town Hall spokesperson said CIS has been unable to find a sustainable operator for the café, and building work at the premises “doesn’t comply with regulations because of unresolved health and safety issues”.

They added that the council is yet to see evidence that CIS can generate income for community projects.

But CIS chair Jonathan Aldenton told the Citizen: “It would be a tragedy if we have to move. The council gets the business rates anyway.

“We’ve created the only self-sufficient public loo in the country, as far as I know, and it’s appalling that the council now wants to get rid of us.

“There are no instances of people shitting in the street any more – what more do you want? This is a bit of fun, so just let us get on with it.”

Solar-powered: the toilet as it looks now. Photograph: John Tomter

Aldenton said that while the previous café owners went bust, it is now run by “world-renowned salad author” David Bez and generates enough income to fund the toilets.

He added that loos remain free to use, and are always open on Sundays for the Chatsworth Road market.

The Society’s secretary Mary Doyle also raised concerns about the lack of public toilets with disabled access in the area.

She said: “It’s an outrage! As someone who uses a wheelchair, this is the only local toilet I can use.

“The council has always resented our campaign to re-open the toilets and provide decent facilities on the street. Now they want to steal our community asset.

“Far from helping community initiatives as they boast in glossy reports, they undermine, bully and ignore them when they can.”

A spokesperson for Hackney Council said: “We let the public toilets and adjacent café to Clapton Improvements Ltd (CIS) for £1 per year on a five year lease to allow them to refurbish the property and generate profit for community projects. This lease is due to expire in February.

“Unfortunately, CIS has not been able to find a sustainable operator for the café, and the building work doesn’t comply with building regulations because of unresolved health and safety issues.

“For these reasons, we are not renewing their lease. We have also yet to see evidence that CIS has been able to generate income for local community projects.

“The Brooksby’s Walk toilets are currently required by the lease to operate during Chatsworth Road Market every Sunday, however, given that the property currently does not comply with building regulations, work will have to take place before the premises is re-let. Any future tenant will have a similar obligation to keep the toilets open.”

The spokesperson said the council is looking for a new operator for the space, adding: “We are seeking a new operator for the space. Income generated will go towards running vital council services, which is more important than ever in the face of continuing government cuts to local councils.”

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