Bench back by popular demand at Welwyn Garden City shopping parade
PUBLISHED: 09:50 10 December 2018
After a lengthy exercise in democracy, Welwyn Garden City’s ‘cubegate’ saga has wound its way to a close.
The seating needs of tired shoppers at Woodhall shopping parade have been met with a fine new bench.
The council’s £650 bench-provision initiative addresses a lack-of-benches issue in the area, which came about as a result of the council taking the benches away.
In June this year, the council took away four benches and replaced them with six wooden cubes in response to concerns about antisocial behaviour from people congregating around them.
The move came as part of a wider project to address antisocial behaviour on the advice of police and after feedback from the public on a Community Information Day in March.
These efforts between the police and various council initiatives saw 999 calls from the area drop dramatically within the space of a year.
However, the £3,140 set of Iroko hardwood cubes soon aroused scathing commentary from Herts Action on Disability, which dismissed them as an attempt to be “trendy” and pointed out that the lack of backrests and armrests made them much harder for elderly people and people with disabilities to use.
In a council meeting on July 9, Labour councillor Jill Weston put forward a motion to re-install benches and, in place of the yob-defying cubes, to review youth activities in areas where antisocial behaviour is a problem.
She asked the council to back the statement that: “A better solution to the antisocial behaviour of some young people would be to engage in dialogue with them and set up activities they can take part in.”
Councillors voted her down by 24 to 20 votes.
In late August, the council took the question to the streets.
It put up an online poll about matters around the tricky bench-versus-cube question, and sent officers out to Woodhall to ask shopkeepers and consumers for their view.
By December, the solution had been found: a bench.
There is only one bench so far, and this one has additional armrests.
The four removed benches still appear fit for purpose and the council is currently considering giving them a new home at the Lawn Cemetery in Hatfield.