A community toilet scheme has been proposed by Lib Dem councillors following the sell-off of public toilets.

Toilets in Ewell Village were sold off by Epsom and Ewell Council in May for £68,000, and those in Stoneleigh Broadway and Upper High Street car park were closed in 2010.

The council said this would save £21,000 a year and negotiations would be made with local businesses to allow public use of their facilities.

But the Lib Dems, who said they are still receiving complaints about the closures, believe no such alternatives were "thoroughly investigated".

They want a community toilet scheme to be established where local businesses, bars and shops display a sign saying their toilets can be used by the public, in return for money from the council each year.

A council spokesman said organisations were contacted in March 2010 about them providing the public use of their toilets, but the businesses approached had a number of concerns - including responsibility for unaccompanied children, licensing issues, costs and management of their businesses during busy periods.

Councillor Julie Morris said: "The local authority didn't save a huge amount of money by closing its public toilets, but they did cost considerably more than £5,000.

"Although there's no spare money at the moment, the council can afford to put £5,000 behind this programme if they choose to do so.

"For both younger and older people, the loss of toilet facilities has become a real issue. 

"We should never have closed them without setting up a community toilet scheme.

"Although the Lib Dems suggested this at the time of the closures, a proper paid-for community toilet scheme was never thoroughly investigated."

At a meeting of full council on Tuesday night it was decided to refer the issue to a committee to look at it in detail.

John Kerwood, owner of the Famous Green Man pub in Ewell High Street, said he would participate in the scheme - but only in return for payment.

He said: "I think the council should supply public toilets as they are a necessity and, if it was willing to pay towards their upkeep, then I would put a sign up for the public to use them.

"If it was voluntary, I wouldn’t put signs up because I would have to pay to maintain the toilets, which could be open to abuse, and water is an expensive commodity."

But Mehmet Tok, of Fresh Look Hairdressers’ in Stoneleigh Broadway, disagreed: "I would not be happy with any member of the public coming in.

"You don’t know who has come in, where they’ve gone, what they are doing.  The best thing would be to have public toilets."