Published: 10:21, 31 March 2017
| Updated: 10:23, 31 March 2017
A disabled pensioner who has just had a double knee replacement resorted to asking a furniture shop owner whether she could sit on their sofa because she couldn’t find a public bench.
Anita Walker, 74, is calling for more seating in the town centre after she found herself in difficulties on her first walk out since the major operation.
Swale Borough Council and the town council agreed to remove a number of benches in the last few years as they say they attracted anti-social behaviour.
Cllr Walker said at a town council committee meeting: “I know there was apparently problems with anti-social behaviour on the bench in the Market Place particularly but I for one never had any problems.
“It was often taken by men sitting and talking and drinking beer, and yes they were loud, but if I ever needed to sit down, I would ask them and they would say yes.
“I would never have any problems with them. They were always polite and I never heard any bad language.
“But on my first walk into town I had to ask the second-hand furniture shop owner whether I could sit down because there was nowhere else to sit.
“We desperately need more benches. I am now getting better but a lot of people are not.”
A council survey found that many people wanted more benches in the town, particularly in the Market Place where one had been before and in Station Road.
“We desperately need more benches. I am now getting better but a lot of people are not.” - Cllr Anita Walker
But many others say that the benches should be removed to prevent anti-social behaviour.
Mike Knowles, an engineer from Swale Borough Council was also at the meeting.
He said: “We have not got the budget for the maintenance of the benches. It would be a shame if six weeks down the line, they are vandalised and have to sit there vandalised.
“I’m happy to arrange the work but we will get complaints. There is a difference in opinion so whatever we decide, there will be complaints either way.”
Cllr Geoff Wade added: “We do need to be mindful of the maintenance costs and the problems the benches caused in the past.
“There is definitely a conflict of opinion in the town. People need to rest and take the weight off their feet but I can recall the problems that having a bench there in Market Place did cause.
“I can understand people wanting to sit down but we have to be conscious of the costs we are likely to incur because of anti-social behaviour that goes on around them.”
Cllr Ted Wilcox, chairman of the Public Realm committee, suggested proposing to the town council that it look at replacing the Market Place bench and installing one in Station Road.
The town council will discuss this on Monday, from 7pm in the Guildhall.
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