PUBLIC toilets will remain free of charge as council bosses approved plans to revamp Clacton’s town centre facilities.

The decision is a U-turn on the council’s previously approved public conveniences strategy, which included a recommendation to make customers pay for using the Rosemary Road toilets.

A report that which went before the council’s cabinet said not introducing charges would lose a potential £20,000 a year in revenue.

But the cost of adapting the toilets as a charging facility would cost an estimated £30,000.

Councillors were told charging for use of the toilets would be “risky” while High Street trade struggles.

The upcoming closure of Clacton’s town centre Marks and Spencer branch was also cited as reason enough to backtrack on plans to charge for use of the facility.

The report said: “There are other risks associated with the introduction of charges to a town centre public convenience at a time when High Street retail outlets are struggling and competing for business, both online and from out of town shopping facilities.”

Refurbishment of the Rosemary Road toilets will cost the council around £70,000.

The report said: “The refurbishment will benefit Clacton town centre, promoting town centre rejuvenation as well as supporting the existing and future visiting economy.

“A refurbished, modern town centre public convenience in Clacton will also reduce future operating costs.”

The cabinet also gave the green light to plans for a £130,000 refurbishment of the public toilets in Promenade Way, Brightlingsea.

This revamp will be funded with section 106 money, cash paid by developers for improvements in the areas in which they build.

Neil Stock, council leader, said: “Clacton town centre is the subject of ongoing work, with the new working party coming up and the M&S store closure, so it is not appropriate to consider charging for the refurbished toilets at this time.

“With Brightlingsea there may be other funding, but what is important is that these toilets are refurbished before next summer as they are an important part of the tourist offer there – especially for beach hut owners.”