Almost 600 people from Eastbourne have signed a petition calling on the Arndale Centre not to remove family toilets during its multi-million pound refurbishment project.
The petition was started by Louise Tieran, a mother who was shocked to find the shopping centre had closed a family toilet facility while building work took place.
Since the petition was set up, 590 people have signed asking the Arndale to bring back the family toilets and to provide an alternative space until then.
On the campaign website 38degrees, Ms Tieran writes, “As a new mum, on discovery of this development I have made enquiries with the Arndale whose response has been that the current family toilet will be replaced with a further specialist disabled toilet facility and will require a special RADAR key to access.
“Parents shouldn’t have to use the facilities of a shop/restaurant etc when they are in the centre.”
But Bill Plumridge, manager of the Eastbourne Arndale Centre, said the toilets would not be permanently closed and parents are free to use disabled toilets until the refurbishment work is finished.
He said, “During 2015, there were four disabled toilets, one of which was available for customers with children and a separate baby changing and feeding area which meant that parents with young children had a family toilet facility along with a room to look after their babies.
“Many parents felt it was inappropriate to have a changing and feeding area with a toilet because this was often used by customers without children. We listened to this feedback and removed the toilets from the baby changing area.
“After approaches from disabled groups we also agreed to change one of the disabled toilets into a Changing Places facility that would greatly help customers who needed extra assistance including those with older disabled children.”
The new facility, which includes specially designed equipment, is due to open later this month.
It will be open to all customers with a RADAR key - a national scheme which opens access to disabled facilities.
Mr Plumridge added, “Since these changes were made, we have removed the RADAR lock from the first disabled toilet so that it can be used by families. There is room for a buggy within the toilet and this is available as a parent and child facility.
“The new space will be refreshed by mid-May after the Changing Places facility is complete. We will also be updating our signage to make it very clear to families that this is a family toilet facility.
“In addition to this we are also hoping to further enlarge one of the cubicles in the ladies’ toilets so that it can be used by a mother and child in a buggy.
“Our customers with young children are very important to us and we would not take away a facility that they clearly need.”
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