RE-OPENING mothballed public toilets in Darlington town centre would cost taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds a year, according to a senior councillor.

Darlington Borough Council closed the toilets in the Covered Market in April 2012, in an effort to save money in the face of budgetary pressures.

The toilets were the last purpose-built local authority-run toilets in the town.

Loading article content

Attempts to reopen the toilets have been made, but have not materialised.

Although there are free public toilets in the council-run Dolphin Centre, there is still a debate over the future of the market toilets.

That debate was given another airing at a meeting of the full council on Thursday evening.

Tory councillor Bill Stenson, who has long campaigned for the toilets to be reopened, repeated that call, saying he could not understand the ruling Labour group's stance on the issue.

Speaking to The Northern Echo after the meeting, Cllr Stenson said: "The Dolphin Centre toilets are all well and good, but it's not the same as having a dedicated toilet block in the market.

"It's not as if the toilets in the Dolphin Centre are advertised, I don't think many people will even realise they are there."

Cllr Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure and local environment, outlined the cost of re-opening the toilets.

He said: "I would like to nail this mis-information that there are no public toilets available in Darlington town centre.

"There are public toilets, they are in the Dolphin Centre and they are open longer, not plagued by anti-social behaviour and they are free of charge."

Cllr Wallis said it would cost £68,000 to re-open the toilets, as well as an annual bill of £30,000 a year in maintenance.

Those figures were based on a 20p charge for using the toilets, said Cllr Wallis.

Cllr Stenson disputed the figures, arguing that people would be prepared to pay 25p or 30p to use the facilities.

He added: "People complain to me all the time about the lack of toilets in the market.

"They might moan about having to pay, but they would soon pull a few pence out of their pocket if they were in a hurry."

Members discussed the ongoing debate on the state of Darlington town centre.

Cllr Chris McEwan, cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said: "There's lively debate on this issue, as one would expect, not just in [the council chamber], but out there.

"That's a sign that we've got a good town centre, we want it to be even better and we have got to promote the positives of our town centre."