Reopen the toilets at Ham Gate, Richmond Park

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Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park, along with Cllr Penelope Frost, Cllr Andree Frieze and Cllr Gareth Richards, Ward Councillors for Ham, Petersham and Richmond Riverside on Richmond Council, are calling on the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to reopen the toilets at Ham Gate, Richmond Park at the earliest opportunity. 

Their closure has had a prolonged and disruptive impact on all those entering the park from Ham Gate, yet Richmond Park management are unwilling to reconsider.

This is a problem which disproportionately affects women, families with young children, the elderly, the disabled and those with health issues. Improving accessibility to public spaces is something we should continue to push for, yet our work is significantly hampered by moves such as this and only serves to deepen social inequalities.  

While park management continues to insist that the nearest toilets are a short walk away, this is misleading. The toilets at Pembroke Lodge and Isabella Plantation – both offered as viable alternatives - are both a 20-25 minute walk from Ham Gate. These are reasonably long distances for most people and prohibitively long ones for those who require more frequent toilet access and/or are less physically mobile.

During previous lockdowns we’ve also seen people to take to the bushes and woods opposite the toilets to relieve themselves, resulting not just in human waste but in the associated tissues. Not only is this an appalling sight and grossly unsanitary, but it disincentivises the park to potential visitors.

It simply does not stand to reason that, at a time when we are rightly encouraging people to embrace the outdoors to exercise and preserve their mental health, we put in place measures that hinders their ability to do so.

We urge you to step in and engage with Royal Parks on the matter to ensure that the park remains an open, accessible and stress-free place for everyone to visit. Now more than ever, we must do everything we can to ensure as many people can enjoy the outdoors as possible.