THE Churchill community has been left searching for answers, after a question was poised regarding the public toilet situation in the town.

The Churchill and District Community Association president, Margaret Guthrie, has dug right to the bottom for answers, and come back to the surface empty-handed.

Currently in Churchill’s West Place Shopping Centre, there are no public toilets at all. The centre is open from 7am until 9pm every day, anchored by Woolworths’ trading hours.

On the other side of the complex is Hazelwood Village, which houses shops such as Churchill Hot Bread and the post office. There are public toilets here, yet they only remain open as long as the bakery and post office are open.

Since those two businesses close before 9pm, patrons who shop at Woolworths after 5pm on weekdays, or on weekends at all, barely don’t have any option if they were required to go to the toilet.

Other options in somewhat close proximity include the Churchill Community Hub on Philip Parade, which is a 200 – or more – metre walk, and again is only open until 6pm on weekdays, and is not accessible on weekends.

Ms Guthrie enquired about the Churchill Public Hall, located on Marina Drive, in between West Place Shopping Centre and Philip Pde – but she was told the public hall must be hired out to use the amenities, meaning that was not an option for the public.

Public toilets used to located in the KFC, almost across from Woolworths, but since its closure in Churchill several years ago, there has been no replacement.

“Access to a public toilet is a basic need. It’s not just ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have a swimming pool, or a new bowling green’, a toilet is a basic human need, and people come to the shops and need to be able to go to the toilet,” Ms Guthrie said.

“Would you believe Churchill is nearly 60 years old, and unlike other towns in Latrobe’s municipality, we don’t have a public toilet in the town centre.”

Ms Guthrie told the Express, the federal Member for Gippsland, Daren Chester, and the Latrobe City Council have all contacted the Sydney-based developer, Revelop, and their commercial property manager, Masis Markarian, to no avail.

Revelop bought West Place Shopping Centre, along with Eastwood Village Shopping Centre in Bairnsdale, in 2021. The combined value was said to be $30 million at the time of purchase.

This situation has been around ‘further than the eye can see’, as Ms Guthrie began her work on the issue as early as 2022.

Ms Guthrie contacted Latrobe City about the matter, which had officers discuss redevelopment proposals with Revelop in August 2022. From that discussion, Revelop was requested to provide timelines for designs, permits, and works to start, but nothing was heard of since.

With no action being undertaken, Ms Guthrie took action into her own hands.

CDCA wrote to Latrobe City councillors asking for support on the matter on April 29 this year, which got the ball rolling for the next sequence of events.

As the president of the CDCA, she organised for petitions to be signed, which have been sent to Revelop, along with separate letters of support from the CDCA, the Member for Morwell, Martin Cameron, and Mr Chester.

In total, 905 people signed the petition, which was displayed for a fortnight, sent to Revelop on Monday, May 13. The petition was displayed in four shops at West Place Shopping Centre, three Churchill churches, as well as with Latrobe Valley Bus Lines.

During the Churchill Shop Local Market Day on Saturday, May 4, the petition was signed about 250 times alone.

I’m in: Shoppers of Churchill’s West Place Shopping Centre sign the petition, in hope of a public toilet being added to the complex. Photograph supplied

“We are very much hoping that Revelop will provide a temporary toilet facility at West Place (Shopping Centre), that is open during West Place trading hours,” Ms Guthrie added.

“They have the ability to do that because there is a small vacant retail space, with plumbing, a wash basin, (and) a toilet. It would be relatively easy to provide a temporary facility.”

The vacancy Ms Guthrie speaks of is a small empty lot in West Place Shopping Centre, which used to house a hairdresser or barber, opposite Woolworths.

“Long-term, we’d like to see council implement the Public Toilet Plan, and build a council-owned and maintained, 24-hour accessible public toilet in the Churchill town centre,” Ms Guthrie added.

Ms Guthrie feels for the community, as she has seen first-hand what the lack of public toilets has done to the town centre.

She claimed that males in the community have resorted to urinating outside in the public’s view, as well as parents changing their babies outside or in the back’s of cars.

Ms Guthrie also mentioned that it has become an issue for elderly people who can’t rush around to a further toilet, resulting in an embarrassing accident.

“It’s a waiting game now, we’ve done our best to communicate with Revelop and had no response thus far. We’ve contacted our state and federal MPs, who are advocating on our behalf, and we’ve certainly raised the matter with council a couple of times and are expecting some sort of response,” Ms Guthrie said.