Thursday, 29 July 2010
Spending a penny at BHS….
Sir Philip Green the ninth richest on the British wealthiest list will not be aware that his store in King Street Jersey has closed its toilet facilities for customers.
The Jewish boy from Croydon made good, with his luxury pad in Monaco, the £32 millions yacht, the £20 millions Gulfstream private jet and 2,300 stores in the UK to worry about - will hardly even know about the toilet needs of his customers here.
“Modern living made easy” might be the BHS slogan but it is just advertising agents jargon. They don’t really mean it.
So in the Jersey store – one of the largest and busiest shops in central St Helier – the first floor restaurant (where you could get a £2.99p breakfast) has been closed and the space turned over to retail use.
That is a simple commercial decision of course. But the popular restaurant on the ground floor with seating for 60 plus - remains in use. Yet, there are no longer any public toilet facilities because these were on the first floor and have now been closed.
Anybody who has altered a café will know that public toilets are a mandatory requirement and even the smallest restaurant has – quite properly – to make provision for disabled people. Yet here in the centre of St. Helier this most important store can apparently just remove such facilities without any permission being sought or required. Furthermore, nobody complains about it!!!!
Unfortunately, it is not just the loss of toilets and a baby changing cubicle because the emergency escape route was also sealed off. The double doors were actually secured with a cable tie!!!! Just suppose there had been a fire and people could not escape – even Sir Philip might have been concerned at the cost of such an event. Yet, nobody seems to have asked the relevant questions, not the Store’s own Health and Safety officer or any of the multitudes of public officials who are supposed to monitor such matters on behalf of the Jersey public.
Of course, Team Voice has made a fuss. We have asked questions and we have received limp and contradicting replies from 5 different officers at the Jersey Planning and Building Control Department.
According to these people the toilets are variously closed or not closed. The disabled toilet will be made available on request or it is being used as a store. There is no legal requirement for BHS to seek permission to carry out these alterations or we are still investigating the matter.
Very worrying too is the strange claims that the toilets are still available for the “use of genuine customers only” but “the toilets were required in association with the restaurant use only and not the general requirement of department stores.”
“The continuing ground floor use is regulated in such a way with the Economic Development Department that there is no requirement to provide any toilet facilities for customers.”
Make no mistake, there are very serious safety issues raised by this simple commercially inspired decision. Even with all the supposed private and public responsibility for such matters – nobody noticed or asked the right questions. There could have been a tragedy. Where was the Fire Prevention team?
If the public supervision is inadequate now – just imagine what it will be like after Ozuof’s 2% to 10% cost cutting exercise has been fully implemented!!!
The lack of provision of public toilets in large retail premises is something that needs to be addressed through legislation but the removal of existing facilities must surely fall within the scope of existing regulations? Children, pregnant women, disabled persons, people with illnesses are all groups that can have particular toilet needs but we all must have access toilet facilities. Even Sir Philip must need a toilet…..
There should be public toilet facilities provided on the ground floor adjacent to the surviving BHS restaurant/café. These should be available for the use of all at this store. In other places in the UK local councils are paying retailers and publicans to provide toilet facilities for anybody – whether customers or not – especially where “public toilets” are not available through vandalism etc.
At BHS in Jersey, somebody should also ask about staff facilities. Has anybody ensured that the current restaurant has adequate toilets for employees? No doubt the Health Department staff are monitoring the food hygiene implications here….after all we would not want any bad publicity for Jersey that a food poisoning outbreak might cause…
Submitted by Thomas Wellard