An underground public toilet on a “landmark” city centre site is to go under the hammer – with a guide price of £50,000.
Potential buyers are being told that the derelict lavatories – just yards from the historic city wall on Broad Street – are ripe for commercial redevelopment.
The owner, the city council, even says proposals for the site could involve a contemporary structure built at ground level, with large areas of glazing and “innovative roof lines”.
The lavatories will most likely be sold for commercial use
In its guidance notes for the sale, the authority says: “A new building here will be the first one outside the city wall since the ring road was constructed and this is seen as an important ‘landmark’ site in a visually exposed and prominent position.
“Preservation of the setting and views to the city wall is important and any development must safeguard these.”
The subterranean toilets, on the corner of Broad Street and Burgate, opened in the 1930s and sit within a conservation area.
Recognisable by the wrought iron arches that mark the entrances to the men’s and women’s chambers, the toilets were built on the site of a former brewery cellar.
The toilets are due to be auctioned
They were closed in 2000 due to local authority funding cutbacks.
In its guidance, the council suggests it would not be against development both within the subterranean chambers and above ground.
“The city council is not committed to a particular design approach but any structure will require a high quality design that follows from a thorough understanding of the context and surroundings of the site,” says the guidance.
However, it suggests that conservation watchdogs English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment would favour a modern building on the site.
Chambers accessed from street level
“The most successful approach is likely to be a contemporary design that would make its own contribution to the special character of the area, rather than an ‘historicist’ one,” says the guidance.
“A contemporary design is likely to avoid the problems associated with a historicist approach and allow for large areas of glazing and innovative roof lines creating a lightweight structure which would help preserve views of the city wall as well as giving glimpses of the activity within the building.”
It adds: “It may well be that the lightweight design approach can incorporate elements of the existing toilets, particularly perhaps the wrought iron arches.”
The site, which also includes an English Heritage-listed red phone box, goes under the hammer on March 23.
The council says the site has considerable potential
Canterbury City Council spokesman Rob Davies said: “Broad Street toilets closed in 2000 following an extensive review of public toilets in the district.
“Gazette readers with a longer memory will no doubt remember that ‘loo review’, which essentially concluded that the council should provide fewer toilets, but ensure that those it retained were of a higher quality.
“Since then we have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds refurbishing toilets across the district, and this is continuing. By pure coincidence, work is about to start on the toilets in Canterbury Lane, the closest to those that closed in Broad Street.
“The £45,000 project will vastly improve the facilities. The toilets will remain partly open while the work takes place.”
Buyers could potentially build above ground too