AN INVESTIGATION has been launched after thousands of people were not able to access public toilets during the Southend Christmas lights switch on.

Southend Council have launched an enquiry after the self-locking toilets may have closed earlier than expected, or locked themselves due to overuse on Saturday.

Residents reported on Saturday evening that they could not go to the toilet during the switch on, because the toilets on the Western Esplanade, Marine Parade, and Hamlet Court Road were all locked.

One visitor posted on social media that she could not go the toilet throughout Saturday afternoon and evening.

She also claimed that the men's toilets were unlocked, but the female toilets were locked.

However, a spokesman for Southend Council confirmed that all the town centre toilets are unisex and that the toilet tanks may have been too full, meaning the toilets could not refresh quick enough, resulting in the toilets self-locking.

Carl Robinson, director of public protection, said: "We have been made aware of complaints from residents regarding toilets across the town being locked during the evening of the Christmas lights switch on.

"We are currently investigating this with our contractor Veolia to ascertain whether or not the automatic locking system on the toilets in question was working correctly.

“The toilets at Western Esplanade, Marine Parade and Hamlet Court Road all have seasonal locking times and are locked automatically without the need for someone to come and physically lock the doors.

"During the winter, these hours are reduced due to the amount of visitors in the areas decreasing in the cold weather.

"As part of the contract with Veolia, we are able to adjust these times to coincide with any events that may be taking place, an option which we took up for the Southend Christmas lights switch on.”