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Tenterden council workers remove flowers from Recreation Ground memorial bench

By Rachael Woods

Daffodils placed on a memorial bench by a 93-year-old widower have been removed by council maintenance staff.

Peter Lake noticed the simple floral tribute he had laid in memory of his wife Shelia, who died last May, had been taken away.

Tenterden town council has made a ruling that families can only place flowers on loved ones' benches twice a year, on the anniversary of their death and birth, and that they must be "loosely secured to the leg of the bench".

Peter Lake on his wife's memorial bench
Peter Lake on his wife's memorial bench

The authority rowed back from an earlier decision to only allow one tribute per year after a public outcry.

It introduced the restriction after external committee members ruled that "excessive" floral tributes were not always removed before the blooms died and were making the town look untidy.

Town councillors also feared that substantial tributes deterred people from sitting on the benches.

Grieving families have paid several hundred pounds each for the memorial benches and believed that they owned them, but the town council says the benches remain its property.

The flowers were removed on March 1.

Mr Lake said: "I approached the maintenance staff as I know them and they had saved the daffodils for me.

Christine Patterson at the memorial bench to her husband
Christine Patterson at the memorial bench to her husband

"They were very sorry and apologised profusely about having to remove them.

“I told them that it was not their fault and that they were just doing their jobs.”

He vowed to continue to defy the ruling and is set for a showdown on Mother’s Day as he says that he will place blooms on Shelia’s bench together with a notice telling passers-by that the flowers will be forcibly removed by the town council.

Mr Lake said: “That will make people aware of what the council is doing and get people talking.”

His daughter Karen Stuart, 55, said: “It’s coming up to Mother’s Day and I would love to be able to place flowers on mum’s bench.

“Dad has always ensured that any flowers are removed before they die.

"I can't actually believe they [the town council] would waste taxpayers' money sending people out to monitor and remove flowers from benches" - Chris Patterson

"I think it’s just one family that leaves the flowers out and we are all being punished for it.”

Mr Lake added: “Why didn’t the council just issue a notice saying that they would remove any flowers that were dying on benches immediately, rather than introduce this silly rule?”

Chris Patterson lost her husband in June 2017 when he suffered a fatal brain aneurysm driving back from a holiday in France.

The 62-year-old has been battling with the town council over the ruling that affects her husband’s memorial bench near Montalbano restaurant in Highbury Lane.

She said Mr Lake had called her to say he was upset by the removal of his wife’s flowers, adding: “I can’t actually believe they [the town council] would waste taxpayers’ money sending people out to monitor and remove flowers from benches, but it looks like they’re going ahead with their heavy handed tactics.”

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