Arun District Council’s economy committee approved the refurbishment of Bedford Street’s toilets on Wednesday (19 January).
Council officers can now start looking for a contractor to complete the works which are estimated to cost £250,000.
A report before the economy committee said the public toilets are among the most used in the district but that they are also ‘regularly subject to anti-social behaviour’.
Sussex Police previously asked for the toilets to be closed due to drug dealing, according to officers.
A redesign could see the toilets become unisex – meaning that men and women would share the communal space and cubicles can be used by anyone.
Cubicles would also face Bedford Street with the communal area visible from the outside – something officers hope will discourage anti-social behaviour.
Councillors welcomed the refurbishment but some were unsure about unisex toilets.
Tony Dixon (Ind, Aldwick East) said: “My understanding is that the government has kind of changed its position on unisex toilets.”
He quoted a government consultation which claimed unisex toilets can ’cause public confusion’.
David Edwards (Con, Felpham East) said: “I must admit I’m not a massive fan of unisex toilets, purely because it’s not just ladies who feel uncomfortable going into them – gents do as well.
“It’s not nice when you walk in, in a bit of a rush, and a lady pops out in front of you.
“But I think we’re subject to that now – they’re certainly at the airports and in most office blocks now you do come across them.
“So I guess we’re stuck with them.”
Bognor Regis Town Council, which was consulted on the plans, agreed the toilets are ‘in need of refurbishment’ but some members ‘expressed concern about the safety of women’ in unisex toilets.
Officers reported that there were lower levels of anti-social behaviour when other local authorities installed unisex toilets.
Others welcomed the new design with committee chair Andy Cooper (Con, Angmering and Findon) saying: “The proposal is a vast improvement.”
Although there will be accessible cubicles in the new toilets, both Mr Edwards and Steve Goodheart (Arun Ind, Hotham) expressed ‘disappointment’ that there was ‘no space’ for a Changing Places toilet.