PUBLIC toilets in Mersea Island will remain open after a campaign backed by thousands of residents.

West Mersea Town Council has reached an agreement with Colchester Council, which runs the toilets, to save the island’s four toilet blocks.

But the cost of spending a penny will not come cheaply as the town council will have to pick up part of the bill and it will hit residents’ pockets.

Last month Colchester Council said it would stop funding public toilets across the borough to save cash.

This included three of Mersea’s four blocks – in Coast Road, High Street and Fairhaven Avenue.

Originally the town council said it could not afford to run them, but, after talks, an agreement has been reached.

Colchester Council had planned to continue funding the island’s fourth toilet, in Willoughby Park at a cost of £7,000 a year.

Now, West Mersea will take control of all four toilets and will look for a private company to run them at a more competitive price.

The £7,000 Colchester Council would have spent on its one toilet, will instead go to the town council to help fund all four toilets.

Colchester Council will also make a one-off payment of £13,000 to refurbish the Willoughby Park block.

West Mersea’s mayor Peter Clements said the rest of the cash would have to come from Mersea residents.

He said: “Unfortunately we will have no choice. We were between a rock and a hard place.

“I think everyone was totally shocked anyone would even consider closing the toilets.

“We feel we’ve got the best deal we could have possibly got. We’ll battle on from here.”

A petition collected more than 3,000 signatures – which is about half of the island’s population – to object to the closures.

Colchester Council is also set to shut the public toilets in Dedham and Wivenhoe and a spokesman for the council said talks were being held with Wivenhoe Town Council and Dedham Parish Council.

John Vince, who lead the Meersea campaign, said: “We’re celebrating that common sense has prevailed.

“It was a fantastic campaign and a great result.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got the toilets open, which was our main concern.”

Tina Bourne, councillor responsible for public protection, said: “I would like to thank the town council for its deliberations and valuable local insight.

“We will now work together to transfer the assets of all four public conveniences into West Mersea Town Council ownership, with suitably agreed financial arrangements.”