First changing places toilet opens in Swanage

The installation of a toilet for those who need extra equipment and space to use the facilities safely and comfortably has been completed at North Beach car park in Swanage.

The impressive new facilities which include a wall mural of Old Harry and Swanage Bay were officially opened by Swanage’s deputy mayor Chris Moreton, ably assisted by chair of Swanage Town Council’s community services committee, councillor Mike Bonfield on Friday 31st March 2023.

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Changing Places toilet

Pleased to see the first changing places toilet installed in Swanage: Chair of Swanage Town Council’s community services committee, councillor Mike Bonfield (left) and Swanage’s deputy mayor Chris Moreton (right)

Funded by a government grant

This is the one of three new changing places facilities in Purbeck, with the other two at the National Trust car parks at Corfe Castle and Knoll Beach in Studland.

The new toilets are funded by a government grant to Dorset Council, of nearly half a million pounds. The council successfully bid for the money from a £30 million fund to increase the number of changing places toilets nationally.

Work started at the beginning of March 2023 to convert an unused part of the Swanage Coastguard building into the changing places facility and was completed in about two weeks.

The location in North Beach car park was chosen as it can always be accessed by a vehicle even in the height of the summer season, when other places closer to town can be too busy to get to easily.

Changing Places toilet
Changing Places toilet

The changing places toilet is much larger than a regular accessible toilet and is better equipped including a height adjustable hand basin that moves with the touch of a button

Campaign started in 2005

The campaign to provide changing places toilets was started in 2005 by parents of children and adults with profound and multiple disabilities, who were fed up with having to change incontinence pads on toilet floors or in the back of mobility vehicles.

The first fully accessible toilet was opened in Nottingham in 2006 as part of a new block of city centre toilets.

There are now 1,823 registered changing place toilets across the country. Many are in car parks to allow for easy vehicle access.

Changing Places toilet

An idea that has come to fruition. Left to right: Councillor Mike Bonfield, Rotarian Maggie Hardy, Swanage Deputy Mayor Chris Moreton and contract cleaner Cos Ribeiro who will be looking after the facility on a regular basis

“Fantastic job!”

Choosing an appropriately windy day for the opening of a new toilet, deputy mayor Chris Moreton said:

“We need to commend the parents who started the campaign, for all that they’ve achieved. There are now hundreds of these changing places toilets across the country and I’m pleased that we now have one in Swanage.

“The team that installed this facility have really done a fantastic job!

“It’s a welcoming sign to all those who need these facilities that there is a place for them here in Swanage. I’d also like to thank Dorset Council for giving us the grant which made all of this possible.”

Changing Places toilet
Changing Places toilet

There’s a height adjustable adult changing bench with a ceiling track hoist, and all with the amazing view of Old Harry!

“Privacy and dignity”

The idea of providing a changing places toilet in Swanage was first suggested about six years ago by Swanage and Purbeck Rotary member Maggie Hardy, who mentioned it to Mike Bonfield who was the mayor of Swanage at the time. She said:

“I’m really pleased to see these facilities finally being provided in Swanage. It’s so important that everyone is able to have privacy and dignity.

“Along with the other new changing places toilets in Purbeck, it will mean there’s a network of facilities for those who are here on holiday or anyone out and about for the day.”

Changing Places toilet in North Beach car park

A parking space for Blue Badge holders is right outside for those using the changing places toilet. There’s also a standard toilet with disability access available for others

“First of many”

Councillor Chris Moreton added:

“I should hope that this is only the first of many in Swanage and the surrounding area. Hopefully the word will get out that these facilities are available and there will be a demand for more.

“As a council we are working on the recommendations of our recently commissioned disability access report. It’s part of our corporate plan to improve access for all and the council is very committed to these improvements.”

Further information

  • More about changing places toilets and where they are located in the UK is on the Changing Places website

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