EFFORTS by a market trader to reopen public toilets closed by budget cuts have been put on hold due to council cutbacks.

Greengrocer Robin Blair has been urging Darlington Borough Council to reopen the public toilets at the town’s Covered Market, which were closed in April following council budget cuts.

They were the last council-owned public toilets in Darlington town centre and were shut to save the council £38,000 per year.

Mr Blair, who is also vice-chairman of Darlington Retail Market Stalls Association, believes the toilets are vital if Darlington is to continue to attract visitors.

The 67-year-old said: “The facilities are essential to visitors to the town, especially elderly people who are often not very comfortable knowing there isn’t a public toilet nearby.

“If there are no facilities in Darlington, people are going to go elsewhere.”

Although no definite plan had been put in place, Mr Blair had been working out ways to get the council to consider reopening the toilets, including charging a 20p entrance fee.

“I have been trying to get the council to consider reopening the toilets and incorporating them into the Covered Market,” he said.

“However they have said they are not going to go ahead with it at this particular time because of prospective budget cutbacks so it is on the backburner for now.

“It is not dead by any means, I will make sure of that, but it’s not going to go ahead for a while now.”

Councillor Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure and environment, said: "I have met with traders to discuss the possibility of reopening of the toilets and other potential work within the existing market hall.

"Whilst there are different options available which might offer a solution in terms of staffing and maintaining the toilets, there will be an initial fixed cost of up to £20,000 to reopen them.

"I have promised that this will be looked at again as part of this year's budget setting process; but, at the moment, there are no guarantees as we are already looking to make a range of further cuts to meet the required reduction in spending by £15m."