Published: 00:01, 20 May 2017
Plans to ban grieving families from leaving flowers on memorial benches along the seafront at Deal and Walmer have been withdrawn.
It follows strong opposition from distressed residents who have paid more then £1,000 to site benches on the promenade between Walmer and Sandown Castle.
Facebook user Tina Bryant exposed the issue on Saturday in a post on the Deal Watch community interest page.
It sparked uproar, with more than 250 people posting comments and an online petition was launched, collecting more than 500 signatures.
By Monday morning, once parish, district and county councillors had been informed, the district council had backed down.
Mrs Bryant, who leaves the flowers in memory of her husband said: “Myself and a lot of people get great comfort from doing this. I’m not impressed with Dover District Council.
“I assume they will not be charging such an exorbitant amount for these benches in the future.”
The letter, addressed personally to her, said English Heritage and the authority’s environmental officers had raised the concerns because of the application of vases, flowers, lights and trinkets to the benches in what they describe as “an area used by the general public, children and animals”.
Spokesman Andy Steele has since said: “We apologise for any upset caused to the families concerned, and can confirm the council has withdrawn its plan to remove flowers and other items from memorial benches on the Deal and Walmer promenade, due to the strength of local opinion. We will be writing to all those who were sent the original letter to inform them.”
The petition was created on ipetition.com; its introduction described the ban as “both ridiculous and insensitive to the families of the people who have a memorial bench”.
The petition says they take “great comfort” in placing items on these benches, and it alludes to the very high cost the council charges to site a bench. District and county councillor Trevor Bond told the Mercury: “I was contacted by the people who have memorial benches and heard what they have to say and contacted DDC as a ward councillor for some of them.
“I have a lot of empathy for them because some were clearly dismayed and I, like them, didn’t think it was right.”
Now the fiasco is rectified he said there are still issues that need to be looked at, but he admits: “It could have been handled a lot better and saved a lot of distress.”
Before the ban was lifted Joan Shankland, who leaves flowers on a bench in memory of her husband, said: “I have received the same letter and find it very upsetting as I find it a comfort to take a few flowers and just sit a while.”
She was going to collect the flowers because she could not risk the thought of a council worker discarding them.
Once she learned it was permitted, she put the flowers back.