A DURHAM City shopping centre has been criticised for closing its public toilets following the introduction of the third national lockdown.

Prince Bishops Shopping Centre has been accused of 'cost-cutting' while essential stores and its car park facilities remain open.

But the management team have defended their decision to keep the public toilets closed due to an almost '84 per cent' drop in footfall.

One customer, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "It's ridiculous. We are still going into Durham for essential shopping and using the car park, paying full price for car parking.

"It's as though Prince Bishops are trying to cut costs, when they know customers might still need to use the toilets.

"It doesn't seem right, people are still relying on the city to get their shopping in.

"Toilets are one of the reasons we choose to park here and not over the bridge, or by the swimming pool."

Under national lockdown rules, public toilets are listed among the essential businesses that can remain open although they are not obliged to.

In response to the concerns raised, the shopping centre said they would continue to "monitor" footfall and review whether toilet facilities can reopen in "coming weeks".

A spokesperson said: "We can confirm that the toilets are closed.

"We are adhering to Government guidelines and the centre is only open for essential shopping, which includes pharmacies and banks.

"Daily footfall through the centre is very low (down 84 per cent) and the car park is only partially open to provide parking for the limited number of stores and services operating."

The spokesperson said the car parking charges levied on motorists, which have remained the same, are not connected to the toilets.

They added: "The centre has no food supermarket and dwell time is in keeping with the essential shopping offer only.

"We can’t comment on the provision of toilets in other parts of the city centre, which may be provided by Durham County Council or other private landlords.

"The management team will continue to monitor footfall and car park use and will review the provision of toilet facilities over the coming weeks.

"Our aim is to provide a safe environment for those people who need to access essential services."