Whitby Town Council has agreed to take over the operation of six public toilets in the parish, saving them from probable closure.
In a recorded vote, councillors were 9-2 in favour of the proposal to look after the loos at Khybper Pass, Market Place, New Quay Road, West Cliff, Whitby Abbey southern entrance car park and in Ruswarp.
But reservations were voiced at Tuesday night’s town council meeting, about the money that would need spending to bring some of the toilets up to scratch, as well as a question over the financial implications of such a scheme.
The opportunity for the takeover has come about because Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) is making budget cutbacks.
Under the terms outlined, SBC would transfer the service to Whitby Town Council in consideration of a maximum grant of £25,000 to improve the public toilets service.
This would include building repairs, turnstiles and a subsidy towards ongoing running costs.
Whitby Town Council would then operate the loos, paying for all costs for providing the service and maintaining the buildings.
They would have the discretion to introduce a charge, which will probably be 20 pence across the board.
It has been estimated that if current visitor levels were maintained, the overall income from the toilets would be around £130,000 a year.
The meeting heard that an estimate for contractor to carry out year-round maintenance work would be in the region of £65,000 – and that the takeover would probably mean the council breaking even financially.
Deputy Mayor, Cllr Rebecca Pearson, said the council should “snatch their hand off” as the opportunity does not come around very often.
“The fact that they are willing to give us money to improve the toilets, we should go ahead with this,” she said.
“It’s not the case that we need to make a lot of money, as long as we break even, and the standard of the toilets is acceptable, that’s what is important.”
Cllr Heather Coughlan welcomed the “marvellous” chance for the council to take on responsibility for the loos.
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for Whitby,” she said. “They should all be for 20p, what else can you buy for 20p nowadays?”
Cllr Ian Havelock said any move to take on the toilets was ill-advised as some need an enormous amount of money spending on them.
“You can be certain that if they were profitable, they [SBC] would not be doing this,” he said.
“Allowing for the fact that we are going to do it, we should accept them in good order. The Market Place ones are appalling and should not be open.”
Cllr Havelock left the meeting before the vote took place.
Town Mayor, Cllr Noreen Wilson said she preferred a fixed cost of 20p per visit for the loo and said it was not just the price, but the cleanliness of the toilets that would have the biggest impact on usage by locals and visitors.
“If they realise we are going to look after the toilets, the response will be greater,” she said.
“People will use them if they are clean and looked after, with a reasonable price.”
Councillors voted in favour of accepting the terms from SBC and starting the process of transferring the operation of the toilets.
Cllr Wilson said that SBC had wanted a commitment to be made by the end of this month.