Disability group slams new Welwyn Garden City cube seats
PUBLISHED: 17:27 06 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:32 06 June 2018
A disability group is dismayed after the council replaced Welwyn Garden City benches with "trendy" wooden blocks.
Four benches at Woodhall Shopping Parade have been replaced by wooden block seating in a bid to discourage antisocial behaviour.
Woodhall shops has been a focal point for police efforts to counter antisocial behaviour in recent months.
In May, police received 13 reports in one evening about youths gaining access to Woodhall House on Cole Green lane, as well as climbing on its roof.
The benches there, which typically seat three or four people, have been replaced by the single-seater blocks in an attempt to deter youths from congregating in the area.
A spokesperson for the council said: “We have been working closely with the police and other community safety partners to tackle ongoing anti-social behaviour at this location.
“Along with advice from the police about changing the seating, feedback from our Community Information Day, held in March, found that residents were in favour of removing the benches from Woodhall shops to help prevent people from congregating around them, helping to reduce antisocial behaviour.”
However, the move has aroused comment from Welwyn Garden City-based charity Herts Action on Disability, who argue that the blocks are not accessible for the elderly or people with disabilities.
Paul Bishop, spokesperson for Herts Action on Disability in Welwyn Garden City, said: “It’s just another example of the powers that be trying to be trendy but ignoring what could be dangerous for older and disabled people.”
Herts Action on Disability also commented via Twitter that “having a backrest to lean on and arms to push up from are critical in proper use of seating for the elderly [or] disabled”.
“If someone just forgot, or leaned back who’s to say what would happen?” wondered Paul to the Welwyn Hatfield Times. “It’d be a disaster.
“It’s a lack of thought about accessibility for older and disabled people.”
Twitter user @PeterPurple tweeted: “These are not fit for purpose to permit disabled, frail or elderly to have a rest.
“Many such people rely on the shops here.”
The council has no plans to replace other benches in the borough.
The six cubes are made of Iroko hardwood and are supplied by the same company that normally provides the council with its benches, at a total replacement cost of £3,140.
The council spokeperson said: “The new square seats are designed to be used by individuals instead of groups, encouraging a more welcoming and pleasant environment for all.
“We recognise the seating is used by different members of the community, and are looking at providing additional seating of a different design.”