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29 August 2018, 17:07 | Updated: 29 August 2018, 17:14
A public toilet in Southend town centre described as a "magnet for crime and antisocial behaviour" is being permanently closed today to keep the public safe.
Hoardings are being erected around the site of the public toilets on Pitmans Close in central Southend, after being repeatedly used for crime, drug-taking, rough sleeping and antisocial behaviour. The building will later be demolished and the site marketed for redevelopment.
In May and June alone this year, specialist disposal teams from Veolia retrieved 631 items of drugs litter, such as needles and drugs wraps, from the blocks - an average of more than 10 a day. They also reported 80 incidents of rough-sleeping in the same period.
Deputy leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, Cllr James Courtenay, said: "Southend has bucked a national trend by keeping toilets open and free to use at a time when other authorities are closing blocks and charging. Therefore, closing a toilet block is not a decision we would ever take lightly.
"But since opening in 2005, the Pitmans Close toilets have increasingly become a magnet for crime and antisocial behaviour and I believe this action is needed to keep people safe.
"It has now reached the point where people are more likely to use the toilets for unsavoury activities than they are to relieve themselves in. We simply cannot carry on like this.
"Our outreach partners have been working with rough sleepers who frequent the toilets and directing them to appropriate local support services, such as drug and alcohol services, hostel accommodation and places to wash and they shall continue to do so after their closure."
At nearby Lucy Road, by the Seaways car park, the women's toilets have also been closed following an arson attack that gutted the building on 13 August. It is not proposed to re-open the toilet as the buildings would be demolished as part of the proposed Seaways development. The men's toilets are unaffected by the closure.