POOLE environment chief John Rampton has moved to defend the borough’s controversial public toilet closure programme.

The councillor, portfolio holder for environmental services at Borough of Poole (BOP), says the closures were agreed three years ago to “protect core strategy services like adult and children’s social care.”

However, his defence comes amid reports of desperate people urinating in the street near at least one of the closed conveniences.

In a letter to the Daily Echo Cllr Rampton said: “It must be noted that there is no statutory duty on councils to provide public toilets, and over the last decade around half of the public toilets in the country have closed.

“Some council’s have simply closed all their toilets, others have drastically reduced the number they operate.”

The councillor, who said he was moved to “put the record straight,” contacted the Echo after we ran a series of stories highlighting the closures - and our readers’ concerns about them.

Campaigner Bob Lister, who attended a number of council meetings with regard to the closures, said: “Flat owners opposite Haven Hotel have reported many desperate people urinating in the street or behind the closed toilets. This is ridiculous, Poole is meant to be a tourist town.

“What about all the people driving to visit Studland and Swanage?

“There is no toilet on the ferry and it is not unusual to queue for up to an hour.

“Borough of Poole is penny wise and pound foolish.”

Last week we reported how 29-year-old Sam Smith had produced a film calling for BOP to reopen the Baiter Park conveniences, just one of a number of public toilets closed in recent months.

Sam said: “I realised a lot of people were not happy, it was a sign that the council just doesn’t care about people at all.”

Meanwhile, John Revell, of Springdale Road, Poole, said he was “appalled” at the council’s public toilet closure decision.

BOP agreed to move forward with its ongoing public toilet closure programme earlier this year.

The latest toilets to close are at Baiter Park, Branksome Recreation Ground, Alexandra Park, Charborough Road (Broadstone Recreation Ground), Constitution Hill, Parkstone Park, Poole Road, and The Haven.

Cllr Rampton said: “In February 2014 following a review of public toilet provision by cross party overview and scrutiny committee, it was resolved in full council that £300k be removed from the public toilets annual budget, as part of the general need to reduce budgets to protect core statutory services like adults and children’s social care in the face of reduced government funding to councils as part of their austerity programme started by the coalition government.”

He added: “All of the toilets closures in Poole since that time are simply the implementation of that decision, carried out over three years.”

The councillor also defended the council’s community toilet scheme, which works by securing public access to toilets at other businesses, such as retailers.