Hart Conservatives wanted to close the toilets as part of their controversial cost-cutting budget, which included several job losses.
But now the council’s influential Tory cabinet has delayed the planned closures so discussions can take place with organisations interested in taking them over. The £10,500 needed to keep the toilets open for another three months will be
found from a predicted budget under-spend.
Hartley Wintney and Odiham parish councils could well take over the running of the public toilets in their areas, but Independent Denis Gotel fears for the future of the Victoria Road car park toilets in Fleet.
“With regard to the toilets in Fleet, where there is no parish council to take on the responsibility, the future does not look good,” he warned.
“This is bad news for the elderly and disabled and for groups running charity events nearby.
“What is interesting is that £10,500 has suddenly been found from a very tight budget to cover up a bloomer by the Tory administration in the run-up to the local elections.
“The £11,000 will only keep the toilets open for three months so if Hart Council cannot attract anyone to take them over they are doomed.
“The closure remains a requirement of the budget
so only a double U-bend by the Tories would stop the inevitable.”
Red-faced Tories were forced into their embarrassing U-turn after the toilet closure plan was slammed by scores of residents.
Cabinet member Stephen Parker announced the change of heart at Hart’s full council meeting in March.
He admitted that a number of councillors had warned him the proposal, which would have saved £50,000, 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.”
Scores of residents and charity groups panned the closure plans.
John Copland from Heckfield branded the move “madcap”, while Hartley Wintney resident Mike Dykes called it “crazy”.
“It may look good on a balance sheet but from past experience it will smell very bad not too long after it has been put in force,” said Mr Dykes.
Odiham Town Centre Manager Peter Fountain said he was concerned the public toilets in King Street were under threat.
“Public conveniences are a basic necessity and in order to promote Odiham, such facilities should be in place,” he said.
“We are a growing, attractive community and every year we welcome many visitors.
“I do not believe that we should rely on the local hostelries to resolve this matter.”
Fleet Lion member Howard Dixon warned the move could mean the end to a number of the group’s money-spinning charity events.
Those under threat include the annual firework fiesta and sponsored cycle ride that are both held on the Views, along with the classic motorcycle rally, which is held in the Victoria Road car park.
“The provision of toilet facilities should be a civic right and no level of cost cutting can justify their removal,” warned Mr Dixon.
The cabinet will reconsider the future of the toilets on June 5.