Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Big Bench Story

Here's an update on the Westgate bench story for anyone that might be interested in its whereabouts.

As a Conservative, I support the view that decisions should be taken as close as possible to the people who are likely to be affected by them. On Monday the Residents Association with Cllr King, agreed to the plan to have it removed following a brief presentation from SGT Connor and me on the measures now in place to deal with the rising anti-social behaviour problem in the town.

On Tuesday at the PACT meeting in Westgate (Police & Community Action), the same course of action was agreed, with traders present and both KCC Councillor Burgess and Cllr King.

On Wednesday the bench was removed into storage. It needs repair and I asked the council officer responsible if she would try and contact the family of Mrs. Tree to whom it is dedicated to let them know why. Otherwise, I would like to see it positioned overlooking the seafront next season, a recommendation that was welcomed by the Residents Association. I have attached a picture of it for any readers that may not recall the condition is was in! The newagent's headline refers to the kids stealing a mobility scooter and placing it on top of the bus stop opposite one night.

Presently we have a problem with the idea of the Piggy Bank Nursery putting a lighter weight bench outside during the day and removing it in the afternoons because of insurance and Health & Safety issues but 'Milly's Collectables' has very kindly offered to let tired elderly residents sit on the sofas for sale outside her shop and these have the added advantage of being undercover. I have passed this message to the surrounding traders so that they can pass it on.

This Saturday morning, I visited the shops in Station road and the support for the bench's removal was unanimous. Simultaneously, closed circuit TV was being installed and tuned-in outside the station, a temporary installation but none-the-less it's still CCTV coverage. Traders tell me that they are against the return of the bench until such a time as the anti-social behaviour problems are fully resolved and they feel that returning it to the same spot would not be a good idea, given that it acts as a focus for such behaviour from teenagers and drunks and or both.

The dispersal order around Westgate starts this coming Tuesday and runs until 16th April next year and SGT Connor's TASK team of Police officers will be present for some weeks to come. Since the bench was removed on Wednesday, she tells me that Westgate has been quiet and has thanks the council for such a quick response in accepting her recommendation.

I understand that Cllr King has now changed his mind and believes that we were hasty in removing the bench so quickly and would like to see it returned. My own view is that as a community dealing with a remarkable rise in anti-social incidents over a very short period, it was important to act quickly and decisively in partnership with the police and the traders to recover our town centre. I'm happy, like the traders to see the bench returned in the future when Westgate is back to its peaceful self but having within just over two weeks, managed to arrange a police presence, CCTV a dispersal order and the removal of a problem item of street furniture, I think we should allow a little time for the measures to take effect before we react arbitrarily to a handful of complaints about the removal of the bench.

I'm very open to suggestions and immediately available to both email and comments on the subject made here.


Anonymous said...

The yobs who urinate and vomit allover the bench have probably contacted Cllr King to complain that their fun has been stopped. Don't think they can vote yet. Shame!

Anonymous said...

anon again!
In Canterbury, they spray the whole area with a pongy disinfectant (Dettol or Jayes).
This generally keeps vermin at bay from delicate areas. Try it!
How about one of those hi pitch squeak transmitters that drives young hollowheads to dispair (alledgedly), could be fixed to the wall directly above the bench.

Anonymous said...

As a regular user of the bench and now left with no place to rest, I will go shopping in Birchington from now on as there are places to rest there. I do not wish to sit on second hand sofas that harbour all sorts and are hard to get up from. My next door neighbour has said she will be doing the same so the sooner you get the bench back and sanity reigns, the sooner Westgate will benefit from shoppers like me spending my pension.

DrM. said...

I'm a trifle bemused at this point.

Clean, comfortable, second hand sofa or chairs, under shelter, are regarded as less attractive than a battered, beer and occasionally urine-stained bench badly in need of repair?

But that's not the point.

As far as I'm aware from the police and the traders, anti-social behaviour declined the moment the bench was removed, making Westgate a safer and indeed cleaner place in the evenings.

Now I'm quite happy to see the bench returned once the more serious crime and behavioural problems are resolved and for residents such as 3:31pm it's a dilemma. Somewhere to sit on an occasional basis or successful crime and anti-social behaviour reduction in Station Road which impacts the whole community, the traders, the Station and the police?

DrM. said...

I've just checked with Sgt Connor who is leading the TASK Team and she tells me that there have been no reports of anti-social behaviour since the bench was removed last week and over Saturday and Sunday, the centre of Westgate was "A ghost town."

Thus the measure appears to have been effective in achieving its objective.

Anonymous said...

people are already going out of
town to shop now so was it a great move to have the bench moved i don,t think so i think it proves that not everybody is happy the bench has been moved nice one cllr moores take a house point

Anonymous said...

Have you considered the fact that this might work another way? I am wondering if anyone else has come across something
similar in the past? Let me know your thoughts...

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