TOWN hall officials have defended the one-off opening of mothballed public toilets in the town centre during last weekend's Darlington 10k event, following criticism from a senior councillor.
Toilet facilities in the town's Victorian Indoor Market – which have been closed since April 2012 as a result of Darlington Borough Council budget cuts – were open for three hours on Sunday (August 10) morning, to cope with the demand of the more than 1,700 runners.
A town hall spokeswoman said ensuring there were adequate toilet facilities for runners was a key factor in organising the 10k, which has been widely praised as a big success.
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She said the cost of re-opening the toilets temporarily was drawn from the event's operating budget, which was partly drawn from external sponsors.
Both the market toilets and the public conveniences in the council-run Dolphin Centre are right on the Market Square, where the runners gathered at the end of the race.
However, it was felt the Dolphin Centre toilets alone would have been inadequate to cope with the demand from 10k runners and spectators.
Organisers decided to temporarily open the toilets to deal with the demand.
Veteran Conservative councillor Bill Stenson has repeatedly called for the toilets to be re-opened, claiming the facilities could be staffed by volunteers to save money.
At a meeting of the full council last month, Cllr Stenson was told it would cost an initial £68,000 to re-open the toilets permanently, as well as £30,000 a year on top of that, for maintenance.
He said: "I am not knocking the 10k, because I think it's good for the town, but it would also be good for the town to have the toilets open permanently
"It makes me feel a bit aggrieved that they can say it will cost so much to re-open them permanently, yet they can open them on a one-off basis whenever they like.
"It just goes to show the toilets can be opened when it suits the council, but to just open the toilets for one day reflects badly on the council."
A council spokeswoman said: "The toilets were open for a limited time for the benefit of the 10k runners and spectators, to avoid potential crowds at the Dolphin Centre toilets.
"We had to make sure there was adequate toilet facilities in the town centre."
She added that the toilets were still deemed fit to use despite having been closed for so long.