Gordon Road Allotments in Finchley, London, is a statutory site owned by the London Borough of Barnet with about sixty plot holders. The whole site is leased to the Finchley Horticultural Society (FHS) which manages all aspects except maintenance of gates, fences, roads and water pipes.
For many years the Council supplied a portable chemical toilet which was replaced by a commercial supplier every month. The cost of the toilet was about £1,650 per year.
In the winter of 2007/08 the Council announced that it would no longer pay for toilets on leased sites. This would have caused a financial difficulty to the FHS so the immediate trigger for action was financial. However there was also an awareness that the chemical toilet was very environmentally unfriendly, and its high step made it difficult to use for less-able people and impossible to access for anyone in a wheelchair.
Informal discussion with a sample of plot holders showed a clear desire for a toilet on site throughout the year. People appreciated that this was important to encourage women, families and elderly people to cultivate an allotment, and for the Finchley Horticultural Society's on-site social events.
A Working Party that was formed to choose a toilet rejected the mains sewer solution because of the high cost, and dismissed the cess pit and septic tank drainage options on the grounds that Environment Agency permission was unlikely, they were likely to be expensive to install and maintain, and in the case of the septic tank it was doubtful whether it would be technically satisfactory on the Gordon Road site as it would require a very large area of allotment land for the soak away. After lots of research, it was clear that a waterless toilet was the best option.
The toilet was installed by Woo Woo and our contractor Michael Tye Limited, a small company which specialises in environmental construction. Members of the working party added finishing touches such as sealing the concrete floor, writing and displaying instructions for use, fixing the hand gel dispenser, coat hooks, a shelf and a toilet brush.
The loo is used a few times per day - more at weekends and in the summer and less in the winter, reflecting when people work on their allotments.
“It did what we hoped and the company was a pleasure to deal with” said Andrew Brown from Finchley Horticultural Society. “Everyone is very pleased. I've heard no grumbles or criticism”.