I took the question of the Station Road bench and associated anti-social behaviour problems to the Westgate Residents Association this evening to receive their views on what should be done about the problem of it being used as a congregation point for large groups of teenagers in the evening.
As well as Cllr Tom King chairing the event, with Kent County Councillor, Robert Burgess present, Sergeant Lara Connor, who is heading the Police Task Team, also dropped-in to brief those present on how the anti-social behaviour was being tackled and to lend her voice to the request that the bench should be re-located elsewhere.
To cut a long story short, the consensus is that in principle, the existing bench, presently sited outside the Piggy Bank nursery, should be repaired and moved to a more attractive spot, perhaps overlooking the beach. In its place Cllr King and I have agreed to fund from our councillors special allowance, a second bench, of a much lighter construction, which the owner of the nursery has kindly agreed to take in during the evening and put out during the day. This way, we believe that elderly residents will be able to use it as intended as a resting point during their shopping and the anti-social element will be denied its use in the evenings and will no longer congregate outside the off-licenses.
On Tuesday, I'm also meeting with the station manager and will be asking for a bright light outside the station, which will also make it unattractive as a gathering point. I would add that none of this is offered as a solution to Westgate's current teenage problems but it's a start in reclaiming the village back in the evenings from the groups of troublemakers who have appeared in the last couple of months.
Should anyone have any objections to this solution, then here's a good place to bring them to my attention.