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Ramsgate Town Council defends removal of high street benches during Covid-19 pandemic

A council has defended its removal of benches from a town centre after the decision was branded “discrimination” against elderly and infirm people.

Two benches in Ramsgate high street, near to Lloyds bank and Caffe Nero, have been temporarily taken away during the pandemic.

Two benches in Ramsgate have been removed. Picture: Raushan Ara
Two benches in Ramsgate have been removed. Picture: Raushan Ara

The move has seen a backlash from residents, who argue the seating provided a vital resting spot for shoppers.

Bernie Tuffs said: “There are so many people who need to sit whilst out walking. This is so unfair to them and totally unnecessary.

“It’s just discriminating against those who can’t be as mobile for whatever reason.”

John Davis added: “Where are the less mobile supposed to rest? This will drive yet more people away from our already struggling town centre.”

Mayor of Ramsgate, Cllr Raushan Ara, also criticised the move.

Mayor of Ramsgate Raushan Ara
Mayor of Ramsgate Raushan Ara

“I understand why they did it, then again there are residents who need them when they come into town,” she said.

But Ramsgate Town Council stressed the benches were removed not to deter people from using seating, but to create space, to ensure shoppers are able to keep a safe distance from one another while in the high street.

Spokesman Richard Styles said: “The benches are a pinch point in a narrow thoroughfare, as there are queues most days wishing to visit banks nearby,” he said. “Caffe Nero also has seats and tables outside, which creates a pinch point.”

He said Ramsgate Town Council (RTC) was asked to remove the benches by Thanet District Council, which owns them.

“This is a temporary measure and the benches will be restored when they have controlled the Covid-19 outbreak,” he added.

“There are benches available only a few feet away further up the high street and across the way in Harbour Street.”

Thanet District Council says these are the only two benches in the district that have been removed.

A spokesman said: “We are working hard to support our local businesses and economy by facilitating the safe reopening of our town centres.

“As part of the Reopening High Street Safely Fund, two benches on Ramsgate High Street were identified for temporary removal. Taking them away would create significantly more space on the pavement and therefore allow for social distancing. This particular location is narrow with high pedestrian footfall and no other street furniture in the district has been removed.

"Ramsgate Town Council kindly volunteered to remove and refurbish these two benches. They will be restored as soon as social distancing rules have been eased. In the meantime, there are other benches in the vicinity where people can sit and rest if they need.”

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