SHANE Johnson has pretty much seen it all after working for 30 years in Bell Street.

Working at one of the city's oldest barbers, he loves his job.

But what's happening now has driven him to the point of no return, and he's had enough.

Since the CBD Tavern closed down, people who use the street's numerous bus stops and train station don't know where the nearest public toilets are, and are resorting to urinating and defecating in public.

Whether it is on the street, on benches or down one of several laneways off Bell Street, it has become a common occurrence to the point where Shane himself has had to clean up human faeces no less than five times.

"Bell Street is a transit hub, we have people coming from all over not Australia, but the world, and this is their first impression of Ipswich," Shane said. "It's a disgrace.

 

NOT HOLDING IT IN: Shane Johnson from Charlie's Barber says the lack of public facilities is becoming a serious public health problem.
NOT HOLDING IT IN: Shane Johnson from Charlie's Barber says the lack of public facilities is becoming a serious public health problem. Rob Williams

"You go to any Brisbane Transit Area you'll see signage for toilets, and a cleaner regularly walking around picking up rubbish. I can't remember the last time I saw a cleaner in Bell Street."

The issue is the fact that of all the toilets in the area, most are not accessible:

* Ipswich Rail Station has toilets, but without a ticket you cannot get entry

* Ipswich Icon has public toilets, but these are soon to be only accessible to staff via a swipe card

* Qld Health Plaza only allows visiting patients and staff to use their toilets

* Ipswich City Square toilets near Caffeine Ali has only recently been reopened, after being closed for some time.

"We first noticed it when the pub closed down, everybody used the toilets in there and now there is no signage advising people where the nearest ones are. I approached David Martin and he just pointed me to the Icon building, and I suggested we put signage up. He said no because they aren't council toilets.

"He told me nothing was going to be done until the full renovation is done, which could be years. This is now a transit centre, with several bus stops. I know people are urinating in lifts around the place, and some people tend to defecate against the wall in the laneways and car parks off the street."

Shane tries to lock the gates where he can, but he's frustrated.

"I saw a lady recently on the street looking around for something, and it must have got to the point when she was urinating in the gutter. She must have been that desperate to do that in the middle of the day. There are people who are incontinent, they may have issues, and they may be waiting half an hour for a bus.

"The Icon toilets close at 5.15, and they are soon going to be only accessible to staff. The City Square toilets off Bell Street are closed on weekends. Why can't we have some portable toilets on Bell Street with a sign up saying this is only in the interim?"

Shane had to clean up human faeces near his car park as it is not council property.

"Who else is going to clean it up?" he said. "You'd be surprised how many people come from Sydney or Melbourne...I had one yesterday, someone who came to Ipswich for the first time to check it out and all they see is rubbish all over the place, plus human waste."

Shane just wants to see signage to toilets, and a cleaner in Bell Street.

"That's a fair call isn't it?" he asked."You're not allowed to smoke on the street or at bus stops but everyone does. What's the point of having rules or regulations when you have nobody to follow it up. The reason is probably they can't afford to hire someone to hand out tickets. Everyone applauded when the smoke-free mall came in, but it didn't stop anything. I've had to spend $300 of my own money on a blower to remove all the cigarette butts out the front of my own shop.

Shane says the despite the fact he is surrounded by empty shops, and losing his car parking out front, he's determined to keep going.

"We wanted to stick it out, the shop opened in 1972...but you get no thanks. We have lots of loyal customers, but also lots of new ones who come here for the first time and they say 'Oh my God, what is going on here' because they've seen a poo on the steps of the pub.

"This is the gateway to our city. There's still many people who get around here, that's why we get new people, while locals will always have something to say about Bell Street."

The QT contacted Councillor David Martin's office and received the following response:

It is very unfortunate that someone was caught short in Bell Street.

I understand a civic-minded business nearby cleaned up the mess, so a big thanks must be given to them.

The nearest public toilets are a short distance away in the mall and Ipswich City Plaza so I've requested council officers undertake a review to determine if signs are needed.

I urge residents to report any such incidents to council on 3810 6666 so these matters can be attended to.



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