Toilet users prefer donation to fee, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority study finds

The toilets at Aysgarth National Park Centre.

After a 25-month trial the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has found that people prefer to make a financial donation to use public toilets as at Aysgarth rather than being charged.

“Psychologically it is known that making a donation makes the individual feel good. Paying for something can have the opposite effect,” Kathryn Beardmore, the director of park services, told the full meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority on December 19.

According to her report it was decided in March 2015 to run a trial at two national park centres to help raise funds for the Authority.

At Grassington turnstiles were installed at a cost of £8,700 so that visitors have to pay 20p to enter the National Park’s toilets, whereas a donation box was placed at those at the Aysgarth information centre for just £500.

The net income at Grassington between August 1 2015 and August 31 2017 was £23,900 after £3,200 was spent on collection costs and £1,200 on repairing the turnstiles.

Ms Beardmore reported: “In the first year, when the turnstiles were under warranty there was no maintenance, but two years on they are becoming increasingly troublesome.”

And that means more trouble for the authority’s staff at Grassington. The staff have had to deal with irate visitors who have put their pennies in but couldn’t gain admission to the toilets. Besides helping them to access the toilets and organising the repairs, staff have also had many requests for change.

This was compared to the toilets at Aysgarth where the car park is one third the size of that at Grassington and where coaches cannot park. The income raised from donations there was £3,000.

Ms Beardmore said: “The box is emptied by the centre staff and banked by them as part of their daily routine so takes minimal staff time, and has no start up or on-going repair costs.”

She added that at Grassington 54 per cent of visitors were satisfied with the toilets there compared to 91 per cent at Aysgarth. She said this was not due to the level of upkeep or cleanliness of the two sets of toilets.

Not surprisingly, the authority will not be installing any more turnstiles at their toilets although those at Grassington are expected to remain for a few more years.

Ms Beardmore said: “Based on this trial, the life span of the turnstiles and the amount of on-going maintenance and staff time required could be problematic.”

A donation box has already been installed at Malham and it is likely that there will be boxes at the National Park’s toilets at Hawes and Horton in Ribblesdale.

Ms Beardmore concluded her report by stating: “We want to be a welcoming National Park, with a high level of customer satisfaction, particularly when people come to our own sites. At the same time we need to set ourselves targets for income generation.

“Based on income generation, the turnstiles at Grassington have been a success. This is largely due to the high number of coaches, and because staff are on hand, throughout the year, to resolve problems as they arise.”

At the meeting on December 19 it was agreed that the authority will allocate £25,000 from its Opportunities Fund to sponsor Welcome to Yorkshire’s “Yorkshire Dales Garden” at the 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

David Butterworth, the Authority’s chief executive, told the meeting: “At a difficult time economically, tourism within Yorkshire and the National Park has continued to grow.

“It is important that this continues into the future and it is felt that playing a part in the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show would be part of that process.”