HISTORIC toilets in the centre of Oxford could soon be turned into plush new office space.

Plans for the St Giles toilets have been submitted to Oxford City Council by city hotelier Gwyn Harries-Jones after he won a tender to lease the undergound conveniences.

He wants to turn the toilets, which opened in 1895, into an office for up to 11 people after entering leasing the facilities from the city council. The toilets will remain unchanged from the outside, except for a glass lobby over the entrance.

A statement from Mr Harries-Jones, who runs the Galaxie Hotel in Banbury Road, said: “These will both secure the building but also provide additional light into the underground space as well as minimising the impact of the proposals on the surrounding area.’’ The 116-year-old loos, which along with the Magdalen Street East toilets are the city’s only underground facilities, boasted many original features such as copper piping, brass-plated stair rails and black and white mosaic floor tiling.

They were closed in 2008 and city council officials said they would never reopen because of health and safety fears associated with them being in the middle of a busy road. In Feburary the city council put them up for lease at a guide price of £65,000 .

But Peter Thompson, the chairman of Oxford Civic Society, said the city council should not make any short term decisions about the toilets. He pointed out his group, as well as the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, is keen to pedestrianise St Giles.

Mr Thompson said: “On the face of it I don’t think in principle there is anything necessarily wrong with the plans but it is an incredibly sensitive location from many point of view, including the beauty of the urban environment.

City council spokesman Chris Lee said it had received a number of offers for the site and decided the proposal to turn it into offices was the best. A planning application has been submitted and will be considered in the near future.

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