A MAJOR programme of improvements to the Winchester district's public toilets has been agreed by the city council.

After years of neglect, its Cabinet of senior councillors has backed an overhaul of around £580,000 to the conveniences which are being hit by vandalism and anti-social behaviour which has caused the indefinite closure of the Middle Brook Street loos. Detailed plans will be drawn up.

Senior councillor Kelsie Learney told the meeting: "Public toilets are a very important service for residents and visitors and with an annual oct of £200,000 a year for cleaning and £30-70,000 for annual repairs it's significant expenditure for us."

Among the ideas is to have a full-time member of cleaning staff to look after the busiest toilets in Abbey Gardens and Market Lane. If it cuts anti-social behaviour it could be a financial saving, said Cllr Learney.

READ MORE HERE: Public toilets in Winchester district set for major overhaul

First to be refurbished will be Chesil multi-storey, Worthy Lane and the St Catherine's and South Winchester park and rides.
Discussions will be held with town and parish councils about work on the toilets in Denmead, Bishop's Waltham, Alresford and Wickham.

Council leader Martin Tod said the Lib Dems were tackling years of neglect. "Since 2010 during eight years of Tory administration only two toilets were refurbished. Eight wasted years.

"After a long period when not enough has been done we are now coming up with a smarter targeted approach that reflects levels of use and across the district, to improve toilets.

Many visitors get a lasting view of the city on visiting the loos.

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression as we used to say when I worked on Head and Shoulders (shampoo)", referring to Cllr Tod's former job in marketing for Procter and Gamble.

Cllr Neil Bolton, who represents Upper Meon Valley for the Conservatives, questioned why much more money was to be spent on city toilets rather than those in the rural part of the district, Denmead, Wickham, Bishop's Waltham and Alresford.

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Cllr Learney said it was because the city centre toilets were much more heavily used and so needed more work.

"Wickham and Alresford have most recently been refurbished. We are not forgetting the toilets in areas outside the city but we have to recognise those toilets under the most pressure are in the city centre." The Market Lane ladies loos get around 800 visitors are day whereas Denmead has around 50.

Cllr Kathleen Becker called for baby changing facilities in disabled toilets.

Cllr Neil Cutler said the Chesil multi-storey car park toilets are very under-used, with only 50 users a day, and need better signing.

Cllr Learney said: "The Chesil toilets are in a bad state but we need to think differently than we have in the past rather than assume we have got the right toilets in the right place already."