AN investigation has been launched after public toilets locked themselves seemingly without instructions.

Southend Council is investigating why thousands of visitors were left without access to public toilets when they visited for the Christmas light switch-on.

The council is looking into whether the self-locking toilets ignored the instructions to stay open or whether they were so full an automatic override was activated.

Visitors praised the events but struggled to enjoy them - and hold on - as the toilets on 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.

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.”

It may have been the case that the new hours were not programmed in.