Published: 00:01, 12 February 2019
| Updated: 07:45, 12 February 2019
A widow whose husband died suddenly of a brain aneurysm says she will ignore a rule that only allows her to place flowers on his memorial bench twice a year.
Chris Patterson, 63, is squaring up to Tenterden Town Council over the controversial order, which she says is "heavy handed" and prevents her from laying small floral tributes whenever she wants to remember her husband of 27 years.
The council initially told grieving relatives that blooms could be left on the benches just once a year after becoming concerned that benches were "covered excessively" with flowers and that displays were being left to wither and fade, making Tenterden look untidy.
But following protests from relatives the council backtracked and decided in December to allow floral tributes on benches on two dates; the birthday of the deceased and on the day of their death.
Retired BT manager Chris regularly places fresh flowers in two small vases at the foot of the bench dedicated to her husband Colin near Montalbano restaurant in Highbury Lane.
He became ill driving back home after a holiday in France in June 2017, when he suffered a fatal brain aneurysm after pulling over at a service station.
The suddenness of his death at the age of 66, has left Chris struggling to come to terms with her loss and putting flowers on Colin’s bench has become an important ritual.
She said: “When people see me placing the flowers by the bench they often stop for a chat and it’s a good way of remembering Colin.”
Chris has been sent a letter from the town council stating that it will now enforce the new ruling of two tributes per year, after allowing a period of grace at Christmas time, when floral displays were permitted to remain.
"Our maintenance team will be checking all benches in the town and removing any flowers/pots that are not installed on the dates provided by family members" - Tenterden Town Council
She has been asked to supply the date of Colin’s death to the town council so that it can advise its maintenance team, but is refusing to co-operate.
The letter states: “Our maintenance team will be checking all benches in the town and removing any flowers/pots that are not installed on the dates provided by family members.
"We must now implement the council’s agreed rules.”
Chris said: “It’s a very heavy-handed approach. Why doesn’t the council just write to families to ask them to remove flowers if they have died or look unsightly, rather than bring in this ruling.”
Town clerk Phil Burgess said the council had to ensure the benches were "safe for public use" and experience showed people were reluctant to sit at benches where there are tributes.
The council also added the benches in themselves are a tribute to the deceased and that it had already relaxed its once-a-year ruling for floral tributes after a relative complained and was handling the matter as "sensitively" as possible.