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The high cost of spending a penny

19 May 2016 by
The high cost of spending a penny

Thousands of takeaways and coffee shops may be forced out of business following a landmark High Court ruling that makes the provision of customer toilets a legal necessity.

The ruling means that independent outlets may have to spend thousands to enable customers to spend a penny on site.

According to figures from the British Toilet Association, the decision, which was handed down last week, could affect 21,500 takeaways and 5,230 coffee shops, the majority of which are small businesses.

Previous legislation stated that takeaways with fewer than 10 seats were not obliged to provide customer facilities. However, Hull City Council successfully brought a test case against baker-cum-coffee shop Greggs last week, arguing that it had an unfair and unlawful advantage over other cafes. The two branches of Greggs targeted by Hull council had fewer than 10 seats each.

The majority of small business owners already believe that red tape is stymying their growth, according to research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), and will no doubt will receive this as a crap piece of news.

FSB has issued a statement urging councils to take a common sense approach to guidance for small businesses. FSB is concerned that the ruling opens the door to thousands of small businesses being forced to refurbish their premises to comply with" heavy handed local regulation, either to build or fit-out new toilet facilities, or remove their seating areas".

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: "It's not reasonable to expect your local chippy to build customer toilets when almost all their customers will be eating their food elsewhere. All we're asking for here is a bit of common sense.

The row began after Newcastle Council issued Greggs with guidance approved by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to the effect that it need not provide customer toilets. Hull council challenged that advice and won, but the story doesn't end there: BIS is appealing the ruling.

A BIS spokesman said: "We have lodged an appeal against the judgement of the court."

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