Southend Council has pulled the chain on plans to close public conveniences after a public backlash.

The Labour, Lib Dem, and Independent administration proposed to close four toilet blocks in the borough to save £40,000 per year, as part of its 2015/16 budget.

The axe was set to fall on loos in Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff, on the corner of Dalamtia Road and Southchurch Road, in Southchurch, on the corner of Ness Road and Campfield Road, Shoebury, and one of the blocks on Shoebury East Beach.

But Independent Martin Terry, who admits the furore caught him by surprise, said that it was a “revised decision”, not a U-turn.

Mr Terry, who is councillor responsible for waste, said: “We said it was just a proposal and we would consult on the plans and having done some thorough investigative work, with feedback from the public and councillors, we’ve decided it would not be a wise move.

“We are a listening council and it was a proposal which was not acceptable to the electorate, so I’m delighted to announce we won’t be closing the toilets this year.”

Mr Terry added that all public toilets will be put under review while the council comes up with a toilet strategy, but the four under-threat loos will not close during 2015/16.

The move created a huge public backlash in what was probably the first vastly unpopular policy created by the new administration since they took office in May 2014. Residents bombarded the council and the Echo with complaints about the proposals.

Tory Roger Hadley, who campaigned against the East Beach block closures, said: “I would just like to thank the Echo for its coverage of the proposed toilet closures.

“I am pleased the cabinet has seen sense and has realised toilets are a basic need and closing them should never have been an option.”

Fears were raised that closing one of the East Beach blocks, located to the north of the beauty spot, would see people relieving themselves in the bushes instead.

John Budge, treasurer of the Shoebury Resident’s Association, added: “I’m delighted the council has listened to us and it’s up to us now to demonstrate that the toilets are being used.”

The £40,000 the council would have saved from closing the toilets will instead come from a re-negotiated waste contract, which is expected to shave £800,000 off the authority’s yearly bills.

Retired detective David Bright, 72, from Westcliff, added: “It’s excellent for the public across the board, for the visitors to the town, and all they could do with now is a bit of smartening up.”

Hamlet Court Road toilets are a problem

Southend Council admits the loos in Hamlet Court Road are a problem.

Essex Police have asked the council to close the toilets as they attract addicts carrying out drug deals. They have become so troublesome the force has installed blue lights in them to stop people from identifying their veins when injecting drugs.

The toilets are expected to come under extra scrutiny under the council’s proposed review, and it previously said it could look at moving the block.

Martin Terry, who will lead the review, said: “We have real problems with the Hamlet Court Road toilets and the police have asked us to close them down.

“We have got a lot of work on to resolve the problems with the toilets, and we need to find a way of providing them in a better environment.”

Gary Mertens, who runs Mertens Meats, on the parade, said: “There’s always down-andouts hanging around the toilets.

“It’s quiet down Hamlet Court Road anyway, so it doesn’t bother me whether there’s toilets there or not.”

Residents to sponsor a toilet?

Residents could be asked to “sponsor” a toilet in order to keep them running in the future.

Councillor Martin Terry offered a glimpse into how the council’s toilet review might conclude, with the some in the borough set to be put under the spotlight in 2015/16.

He said a variety of ways to maintain toilets could be looked into during the review process.

He said: “Some communities may say they want to sponsor a toilet and help refurbish it, and that’s something we could look into.”

Some popular seafront restaurants, such as Toulouse, in Western Esplanade, and Ocean Beach, in Eastern Esplanade, were required to offer their toilets to the public as part of their planning permission.

Mr Terry, who represents Thorpe, added hose options could be looked it in the future, too.

In total, the council controls 31 public toilets in the borough.