Ready and waiting...Councillors and council officials opened the Blackwater Park facility last year.

Park Strife... Blackwater Park changing facilities officially opened a year ago but are still closed to the public

A YEAR on from its official opening the new changing facilities in Navan's Blackwater Park have yet to be used and the new public toilets closes at 6pm each evening.

The lack of toilet access in the evenings has been raised by Cllr Emer Tóibín, who says that she is ‘baffled’ that people have no facilities to avail of after 6pm.

“Does Meath Co Council really think that people only use the loo before 6pm. The current Springtime opening hours make little sense”.

“Blackwater Park is such a wonderful amenity. We are so grateful to have it. There is no doubt that the community of Navan and further afield really value this beautiful outdoor space. People travel from as far away as Slane and Kells to use the park, especially in winter as it is floodlit”.

She recalled that the new building in Blackwater Park, which houses changing rooms with shower facilities and public toilets was officially opened in March 2023.

“It was opened with much fanfare and a key selling point was the undoubtedly excellent facilities. It is so very disappointing that the public is not only constrained by limited access to toilets, but is still waiting for the changing rooms to be actually opened to the public a full year on from the completion of the building.

“Now we are coming into spring and brighter evenings, I have been contacted by several constituents, asking that toilet opening times be finally extended and the changing rooms to be opened to the public.

“It begs the question how such a major capital expenditure plan was signed off by the council without an ancillary plan put in place to run the facilities when completed. It isn't good planning nor the wisest use of tax-payers money and as things currently stand, it is not affording equal opportunity of access to everyone.”

Cllr Tóibín said that when she asked the council some weeks back about extending the toilet opening hours, she was told the council is reviewing the situation and ‘hoping’ to have longer opening hours in the summer.

“Apparently, it is still ‘exploring’ various options in relation to providing a caretaker for the new facility which would allow access to the park's changing facilities. What does this even mean? That people only exercise in the summer? Or only need toilet facilities in the summer?

“Meath Co Council has an ‘Active Travel Strategy‘ to encourage more people to walk and be active but it could be argued it is putting a barrier in front of people who want to get on board with this by not providing adequate facilities.

People want to exercise after work for instance, but the lack of facilities will undoubtedly put them off.

“I think one of the major barriers to people (and women in particular) exercising in public spaces is the lack of proper toilet facilities. And here we are in Navan, a fabulous park with top of the range facilities which are locked at 6pm, every day.

“We must see greater urgency on this issue and timely action now. People are clamouring to get out and about as the weather brightens and it is only fair to them to have the facilities that are there, ready to go to be opened and made available to them”.

A spokesperson for Meath Co Council said; “The Council is reviewing the toilet open/closing hours with a view to extending for the summer months and it is hoped to have staff in place to manage the changing facilities in the near future.”