Kudos to the Municipality of Veere for becoming the most toilet-friendly municipality in the Netherlands during World Toilet Day 2022. This is mainly by setting a good example where the municipality mainly takes its own course and chooses to place many publicly accessible toilets.
In this article, we speak with Roderiek Gaakeer about how the municipality managed to rise from place 27 in 2021 to place 1 in 2022, about public toilets being prioritized for years but with old policies and about what we can still expect from the municipality of Veere. For example, replacing existing toilet locations and installing new ones remains important, but local business owners will also be approached to open their toilets.
Councilman Marcel Steketee states: "Good facilities, including public restrooms, are of great value to our tourism product and local economy."
Policies of the 1990s
"That there would be no policy is a misconception. There is, but it dates from many years ago. If all goes well, this policy will be reviewed, but that does not take away from the fact that in the meantime we just continue what we are doing. I myself have been active for the municipality of Veere since 2016 and have always been involved in public toilets. Where the real focus on quality toilet locations is at the origin of my colleague Piet Kluijfhout. In 2018 he replaced the first 6 dixies for public toilets with a pilot.
This pilot became a great success. This soon became apparent as many tourists and residents reacted very positively to these toilets. These experiences were immediately fed back to my colleague who was present at the toilet locations themselves, and surveys were also conducted. In 2018, you also had to pay 50 cents for the toilet visit and this way we could also see how often the toilet location was visited. Nevertheless, we decided to make the toilets free of charge in 2020."
More and free accessible restrooms starting in 2020
"The initiative came from us towards B&W and they approved to make the public toilets free. Why free, you might say? At first the council did not want this at all and they even looked at making them all paid for. Financially it was not a good year and the alderman could not reconcile it with making the toilets free. Yet it did work out because of several reasons:
- We are a municipality that attracts 150,000 tourists a summer and we want to be an attractive municipality for them because they are good for the local economy and municipal revenues. Free toilets is then the minimum you can offer.
- At that time, we still had paid and unpaid toilet locations and also wanted to realize more locations. The paid locations where electronic payment is possible are expensive to purchase and the existing locations were still equipped with coins and would have to be replaced with electronic payment. This would become completely expensive if you have 3 different facilities with 3 different doors which was the case at our locations. In addition, it also happened regularly that someone would put something between the door so that everyone could get in for free all day which meant that the maintenance team had to be sent out again. So, in addition to the purchase, we also calculated with (technical) maintenance that was tailored to the practice and decided, partly because of the cost, not to go for paid toilet locations, but instead to make them free.
- We used to clean the sites twice a day, but I thought that was a bit excessive so now it is once. Because of making it free we no longer had the income, but because of less cleaning we also had less expenses.
The council agreed and, in addition, immediately agreed to wider opening hours to open daily. Whereas in the past the locations were only open on weekends for 7 months, they are now also open during the week. We are now at 21 public restroom locations and not stopping yet."
Next year's plans
"Before the summer, 2 new locations will be added again where we will take into account an adult changing table in addition to wheelchair accessibility. Furthermore, 6 existing locations will be preserved. By the way, the locations have two different appearances: the toilets in nature have a wooden shell and in urban areas they have corten steel. Besides the public toilets, my colleague Piet and the entrepreneurial manager will also distribute a flyer in which the third-party locations will be added. Entrepreneurs can make this known to me at email@example.com.
In this way we hope to be able to hold on to our number one spot in the rankings. So far we are not taking the 500 meter standard into account, but just looking at what makes sense and so that is going pretty well."