Residents of Soho, London’s famous neighborhood known for its intense nightlife, can no longer stand the smell of piss on the streets. A good chunk of the nearly £1million the British capital spends on city cleaning each year is dedicated to washing the urine that has collected on walls and pavements.
A project presented by the District Council of Westminster aims to end the practice of using a means of getting back at the men who normally relieve themselves on the street.
It’s an “antipee paint” that promises to repel urine in public places so that it splashes more, reaching, for example, the clothes of those who break the rules. The substance is translucent, so strict bohemians can’t tell which area is “safe” to urinate in.
The peculiar proposal was a response to more than 3,000 complaints from the public to the local legislature and is inspired by similar experiences in Germany. “Obviously the urine is not pleasant and our residents are angry,” Aicha Less, who holds the equivalent of a city councillor, told AFP. “We will see the difference in six months and if there will be less smells,” he added, defending the right “to live in a clean and safe environment”.
In Soho there are painted signs saying “This wall is not a urinal”. The warnings complement London legislation which punishes anyone who treats public places as a toilet with fines of between £50 and £80.
According to Tim Lord, leader of a Soho residents’ association, there are more than 400 licensed shops in the neighborhood to sell alcoholic beverages. At least a hundred of them stay open until dawn. “Thousands of people drink here at night, and this summer Soho stinks. If the antipee paint works, it will reduce the smelly street problem and that is something to appreciate.”
Although Soho placed several portable urinals at strategic points between Thursday and Sunday, public toilets have all but disappeared. Some of them were closed during the most critical phase of the coronavirus pandemic but did not reopen when the health crisis eased.
From Lord’s point of view, it is an “English problem”. “You don’t have to travel far in Europe or North America to find clean, wellmaintained public toilets. Soho is an important historical part of London, built in the 1650s. We just want our council to take care of it.”