Public toilets have been reopened even though there could still be a risk from discarded drug needles.

But people could end up having to pay 20p per visit if they want to see them stay open.

The three public toilets in Totnes were controversially closed over Christmas and New Year period, after drug addicts left them all in a dangerous condition.

They were reopened on Wed­nesday and continue to be open from Mondays to Saturdays – but only between 8am and 5pm.

Meanwhile, town councillors have just said they would be happy to see a 20p charge imposed on all three loos if it meant safeguarding their future.

As South Hams District Council announced it was reopening the toilets, it also warned there could still be a risk to the public from discarded needles.

Isabel Blake, a senior officer at the council, said: “Temporary closure of the toilets over Christmas was the only way to ensure public safety.

“The drug problem in Totnes has not gone away and we will check the facilities regularly, but please be vigilant when using the public toilets.

“Have a good look around when you enter and check the toilet roll dispenser for used needles.

“You can report any problems to us as soon as you can using this phone number 01803 861410.

“This unfortunate situation means that while the problem continues you cannot rely on them always being open.

"Drug use in the toilets can happen at any time of the day and the individuals involved do not always wait for the facility to be empty before they go in.

“We will continue to work closely with the police and the support agencies to help the individuals involved, but while they continue to abuse the facilities in Totnes, we may have to close them without notice until we can attend, clean them and make them safe. We do this for your safety. We will continue to look at constructive ways that really work so that we can design out drug abuse in our toilets.”

Sgt Tim Perrin, the head of the Totnes neighbourhood police team, said: “Like everybody else we want to see all of our public toilets open. We are aware that the problems in the toilets are caused by a small number of individuals.

“We are working with them to support them off the streets and away from drug addiction. Where individuals do not engage we will regrettably need to take enforcement action, if this means the risk of an injury to the young and other toilet users is reduced. We will continue to work with South Hams District Council to provide advice on reducing the problems in the toilets.”

The toilets in Coronation Road and Market Square were already on a distict ouncil possible hitlist for closure before the health concerns over drug use, discarded needles and blood spattered walls forced the controversial shut downs last month.

At the same time, the district council was looking at suggestions that the Steamer Quay toilets could be part funded by a nearby business and that all the toilets could be taken over by the town council.

The decision to close the toilets – even on a temporary basis – met with a wave of protests from residents and councillors – many fearing it could be the first step towards permanent closures.

As town councillors were informed of the reopening, they agreed they would rather see a 20p charge imposed on the loos if it meant they would remain open for the future.

And Totnes district councillor John Birch was given the go ahead to tell the district council just that.

Cllr Marion Adams said other local authorities charge 20p to visit their public toilets and on London railway stations travellers have to shell out £1 a time to go to the loo.

“I do not mind paying 20p,” she told councillors.

Following claims by South Hams District Council published in last week’s paper about the risk of HIV infection from carelessly discarded needles, Kat Smithson, director of policy and campaigns at NAT, the National Aids Trust, said: “The problem of discarded needles is a concern for many people who would like public areas to be safe and pleasant, particularly for children.

“At the same time, it is important to reassure the public regarding HIV risk. HIV can be transmitted through the sharing of injecting drug equipment, however, HIV is a very delicate virus that does not survive outside the body well and therefore risk from a discarded needle is extremely low.

“Additionally, HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs is very low in the UK due to effective harm reduction programmes.

“There have been no cases anywhere in the world of somebody contracting HIV through a needle stick injury from a needle discarded in a public place.”