Hart Council's Conservative cabinet has agreed that the £54,200 needed for people to spend a penny should be approved.

The decision was unanimously approved at the latest cabinet meeting on Thursday.

"After listening to public opinion, we made the decision to retain public toilets way back in March," said Hart Council leader Cllr Lorraine Fullbrook.

"Since then, there has never been any doubt that public loos will remain in Hart.

"However, while we maintain the provision, we are actively looking for more affordable ways of providing these facilities."

Cllr Fullbrook said some toilets in Hook, Hartley Wintney and Odiham require extensive maintenance, are unsuitably located or need refurbishing to accommodate the disabled.

Hart is therefore working with parish councils to review how best to provide the service in the future.

"All options will focus on continuing to provide public toilets in the district," vowed Cllr Fullbrook.

Hart Conservatives wanted to close the toilets as part of their controversial cost-cutting, inflation-busting budget, which included a number of job losses.

But the Tories were forced into an embarrassing U-turn after the closure plan was panned by scores of angry residents.

John Copeland, from Heckfield, branded the move "madcap", Hartley Wintney resident Mike Dykes called it "crazy" and Fleet pensioner Enid Taylor said she was "appalled".

Douglas Watt, a retired company director from Fleet, said: "Someone must have flipped a lid".

Odiham town centre manager Peter Fountain said he was concerned the public toilets in King Street were under threat, warning they were a basic necessity.

"We are a growing, attractive community and every year we welcome many visitors," he said.

"I do not believe we should rely on the local hostelries to resolve this matter."

Fleet Lion member Howard Dixon warned the toilet closure could spell the end to a number of the group's money spinning charity events, including the annual firework fiesta, the sponsored cycle ride and the classic motorcycle rally.

But cabinet member Cllr Stephen Parker announced the change of heart at Hart's full council meeting in March.

He admitted a number of councillors had warned him the proposal, which would have saved about £50,000 a year, lacked public support.

"I have listened to the comments from members and residents and I have decided that we will learn from them," he told colleagues.

"This administration is not afraid to admit if we make a mistake, and to speedily correct it."

A report to the latest cabinet meeting said talks had been taking place with Hook, Hartley Wintney and Odiham parish councils and the cabinet member for Fleet, with a view to finding out if they can take on the financial responsibility of the toilets from July 1 next year.

Hook Parish Council has not given a formal response despite several reminders but it is understood village leaders are unlikely to agree to stumping up the cash from the parish precept.

Hartley Wintney Parish Council has said it may be prepared to contribute to the cost of the toilets, while Odiham Parish Council said residents at the annual parish assembly agreed the toilets must remain open and the town centre manager is looking for funding and options for the future.

The cabinet member for Fleet and Church Crookham, Cllr Sharyn Wheale, has said the toilets must stay open but, since there was no funding for them in the budget, it is unlikely the costs could be met for the remainder of this year.