The Bronte family would be writing shocked letters of complaint to Bradford Council about plans to shut Haworth’s Central Park toilets, claims former TV presenter Christa Ackroyd.
She has joined the battle to save the award-winning loos, and said she believed the sisters – and in particular their father Patrick – would be outraged at any move to strip the village of such valued amenities were the alive today.
The former Look North presenter also said it was wrong to suggest tax-paying traders should bear the responsibility of providing free toilet facilities instead.
“Patrick spent years campaigning for social and public health improvements, and in 1849 wrote to the General Board of Health asking for an inspector to be sent to Haworth, which was then said to have worse sanitary conditions than the London slums,” Ms Ackroyd added.
“At that time, 24 houses shared one toilet and there were only 69 toilets for a population of 2,500. It really was a case of open sewers running down the streets.”
An inspector, Benjamin Babbage, arrived the next year, and it was agreed to install a proper sewerage system, for which each house had to pay two pennies for the next 30 years.
“Sanitation, as well as education for all, was something Patrick really believed in, as did his daughters,” said Ms Ackroyd, who now runs Brook House B&B in Ogden, which caters for Bronte fans from around the world.
“Patrick would be picking up his pen and writing: ‘Dear Mr Councillor, just what do you think you are doing closing toilets 160 years after we managed to get some?’.”
Ms Ackroyd added she found it impossible to see any logic behind plans to close the modern toilet block, which serves the park and also the lower reaches of the village.
She said: “One million tourists come to Haworth each year, and if they only spend £3 each, that’s £3 million entering the system.
“That means the shops are successful and so pay their rates. But if the lack of toilets deters just ten per cent from coming to Haworth, that would be a loss of £300,000.
“I know these are hard times because of the cuts, but it makes no economic sense to risk any loss to Haworth. It just isn’t cost-effective.”
Ms Ackroyd said closing the Central Park toilets would also dissuade families and the elderly from visiting the park.
“These are good, clean toilets, with full disabled access and baby changing facilities, and the alternative will be to walk all the the way up Main Street to those at the top of the hill. A lot of people simply won’t do that,” she added.
Ms Ackroyd said it was also unfair to make traders shoulder the burden of providing facilities all taxpayers regard as a basic right.
She said: “The message to tourists from the council seems to be, ‘come to Haworth because it is a real gem and spend your money – but we won’t spend anything on you’.
“That’s surely not what we want all the visitors to the Tour de France to think?
“And it’s a case of saying to the excellent traders of Haworth, ‘thanks for the income from rates, but tourist toilets aren’t our problem, please let them use those in your shop, bar or cafe’.
“It’s just not good enough, and the council really should think again on this. For example, why not raise money by charging at the top toilets, which are currently free?”
Councillor Andrew Thornton, Bradford Council’s executive member for environment and sport, said: “We are in a process of consultation involving petitions and listening to what people say before reaching a final decision.”