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Swale council's suspension of memorial benches along Minster Leas upsets young cancer victim Kirsty Jeffrey's family

By Emma Grove

A grieving mum has hit out at Swale council over its decision to suspend the installation of memorial benches along Minster Leas.

Maggie Bowry lost her 29-year-old daughter Kirsty, from Minster, to cervical cancer in May and was hoping to get one of the seats put up as somewhere to go and remember her.

The authority has stopped the scheme after receiving comments about the amount of tributes left on some.

Kirsty Jeffrey with her daughter Paige along The Leas when she was a few weeks old

Green spaces manager Graeme Tuff said while they understand the sensitive nature of the situation, they have to consider the issues raised as some have so many flowers, photos and other items they can hardly be used.

Mrs Bowry, of Noreen Avenue, Minster, has launched a petition to try to get the scheme restarted and already has more than 150 signatures.

The 53-year-old said: “Kirsty’s death left us devastated and I need something to remember her by as I find it too traumatic to visit the cemetery or crematorium.

“This would be a lovely place to go with her two-year-old daughter Paige, who we have taken to the seafront since she was weeks old.

“It’s an outrage they allow fast food joints on the Island which make the whole community untidy – a lot worse than a few toys on memorial benches.”

Maggie Bowry along The Leas, Minster, where she would like to install a memorial bench for her daughter, Kirsty Jeffrey

The seats, of which there are dozens along The Leas, cost families £505 which pays for the structure, the plaque, the installation and admin.

Mr Tuff said the council makes no profit on them.

There are at present 13 people on a waiting list and he said the council plans to do a survey to find out what the general feeling is and look at a way to continue.

He hopes they will be able to find a solution within a month and said the outcome will depend on the feedback – it could be to introduce conditions which people will have to agree to before they purchase a bench.

He admitted it had taken longer than he would have liked to resolve and understands people’s frustrations, but said they wanted to do the research during the summer when the area is busiest.

“We understand people purchase them for a reason and everybody is different – we are in a difficult position,” he said.

“We are not saying people can’t have one but there has been an issue and we have to consider it.”

To sign Mrs Bowry’s petition, go to www.change.org and search Swale memorial benches.

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