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Cash down the pan... bank fury at loo plan.

Byline: JOE OLIVER

COUNCIL chiefs in Belfast could be set for a court battle with a bank - in a row over a public convenience.

The Co-Operative bank is threatening a sizeable withdrawal from its own funds to put the matter in the hands of lawyers.

The loo dispute erupted after the council decided it wanted to install three automatic toilets in city centre locations.

One of the sites they opted for is at the corner of Donegal Square North and Fountain Street - right outside the bank.

The Co-Operative is housed along with the Linenhall Library in a listed building in a conservation area.

According to the council, an independent planning consultant was employed which indicated that the chosen option was suitable.

The PSNI agreed that the installation of a toilet outside the bank would not give rise to anti-social behaviour.

But the bank was outraged.

It spent pounds 3 million refurbishing the building before it opened as the Co-Operative's first Northern Ireland branch last year.

Officials told members of the council's environmental services committee that the convenience would be just feet from a planned cash transfer unit.

The bank would not comment officially on the row yesterday, but one senior employee told us: " The idea of a public toilet on your doorstep doesn't bear thinking about, particularly when pounds 3 million was spent on the building.

"It's hardly aesthetically pleasing and a public convenience at that point could also compromise the safety of customers using the bank's facilities to deposit cash.

"The council will have to look at other locations or this will wind up in the hands of lawyers."

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Clarke, chairman of the environmental services committee, said: "We have looked at other locations in the vicinity but they were all inappropriate.

"We will look at it again but I don't think the argument that a public convenience is not aesthetically pleasing holds much water."

CAPTION(S):

BANKING ON A RESULT: The Co-Operative, which spent pounds 3m refurbishing its listed building last year; CONVENIENT: Belfast Council plans to park a loo outside the bank
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Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:May 16, 2004
Words:348
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