Work on a new Willow Tree public toilet block will commence in the next few weeks, according to Liverpool Plains Shire Council (LPSC). The old facility has been closed since Thursday, August 31, 2023. LPSC mayor Doug Hawkins says new design plans have been approved and the old facility will be demolished in a week's time. But locals say the council has known about the stink for 18 months and they are fuming. The Gate Cafe owner Kay Billingham said local businesses are the ones now paying the price. "This issues has been going on for 18 months," she said. "I have people urinating around the cafe. Some people have walked in swearing at my kids and my daughter looked out on Saturday and saw a truck driver pissing on the wheel. It's becoming a bit of a joke. "The owner across the road at The Plains Pantry travels up to Quirindi once a week to try and find out what is going on." A popular stop-over for travellers, The Gate Cafe is operated out of a council-owned building on the New England Highway and shares a public bathroom with the Willow Tree Information Centre. Ms Billingham said when she took over the business over a month ago, she was assured the septic system would be replaced soon after. "I asked how is this gonna affect my business and if I could use my water. As my dishwasher and sink is connected to the septic tank," she said. "The lady who I bought it off was allowing the customers to use the bathroom and there was a sign up saying customers only. "In the first week of opening my business the council has called me saying if I continue to let the customers use the bathroom, they will charge me to clean out the septic tank." The situation has put Ms Billingham in a tough spot, because according to the Australian Building Codes Board, she must provide a toilet for patrons if the building can accommodate more than 20 people. "Because the irrigation is broken, it is all coming up through my grass," Ms Billingham said. "When you sit outside my cafe out the back you can smell the septic tank and people can smell it more, early in the morning." Cr Hawkins said the toilets were closed because they were a health hazard. "The toilet won't handle anymore effluent; it is full," he said. "The transpiration area is full. It is a major job to dig it all out, but we have committed to do that. We have also redesigned it so that we can have a 10,000 litre tank in there that will take any overflow at any time, and the situation can be corrected." It's estimated the new facilities will cost $70,000. Over the last few years, Cr Hawkins said the small community has blossomed and has more travellers stopping there than ever before. "When that facility was built, Willow Tree was a sleepy town, and it was built to a standard to meet the traffic volume of the time. It was built to cater for the amount of people, and that has ballooned out in the last few years," he said. The council has considered port-a-loos as a stopgap measure, but Cr Hawkins said installing and pumping them each day would cost the same as building a new lavatory. "We are going to push as hard as we can to get it done as fast as we can. But we struggle at the best of times to get tradesmen here, and we've had to go as far as Lismore for a tradesman," he said. Cr Hawkins said the council aims to have construction completed prior to the start of peak holiday season, but residents say they are not holding their collective breath. In the meantime, Cr Hawkins is encouraging businesses to share facilities, where possible.