Leeds businessman Terry George has publicly supported a campaign calling on the owners of Bramley Shopping Centre to restore all 22 benches they removed earlier this year.
Terry George grew up on the Wyther Park estate in Bramley and often visited Bramley Shopping Centre as a child.
He’s backed the A Place to Sit campaign, which is hoping to restore all 22 benches removed by LCP Group, the company managing the centre on behalf of new landlord Sheet Anchor.
Entrepreneur Mr George has even offered to pay for two benches out of his own pocket.
Posting on the group’s Facebook page, he said:
“I fully support this campaign to bring back the seating in Bramley shopping centre. I’m a Bramley lad myself and understand the importance of having free, easy to access, seating in the shopping precinct.
“My mother and father relied on sitting here freely over many years. I will even pledge to pay for two benches out of my own money if this is needed.”
Mr George made a name for himself as a DJ in the 1980s before establishing the popular Confetti’s Gay Night, which saw appearances from stars such as Boy George. The entrepreneur runs a number of city centre bars and has made a number of television appearances, including Channel 4’s The Secret Millionaire.
He invited campaigners to appear on his LDC Radio show on Sunday 22 August, during which he made the offer to pay for a couple of benches himself. He described the decision to remove the benches as ‘bonkers’.
A Place to Sit campaigners are holding a weekly sit-in 10am-11am every Saturday at Bramley Shopping Centre to remind LCP Group why seating is needed across the centre.
LCP Group has proposed to replace eight of the 22 benches in two areas of the shopping centre. But campaigners say this is not enough and will not enable people with mobility problems or health issues to use their local shops as the distance across the shopping parade is too far for some.
The A Place to Sit campaign is calling on LCP Group to meet with them to find a solution to this problem, as well as calling on the retailers to make their views known to their landlord on behalf of customers.
The community campaign has also seen more than 1,000 people sign an online petition.
LCP originally removed the benches, saying they were an obstruction.
A spokeswoman for LCP earlier this month confirmed their intention to reinstate eight of the benches following consultations with tenants and Leeds City Council, with four benches by Poundstretcher and four close to the taxi rank near Tesco.
A spokesman for LCP responded to the protests, saying:
“Since we took over the management of Bramley Shopping Centre earlier this year, we have focused our efforts on how we can improve the public realm to make it a modern and attractive community-led shopping facility.
“When we removed the benches, we said from the outset we were looking at what would best suit the needs of the centre and [our surveyor] conducted on-site surveys to see where benches would be best located to ensure health and safety needs are met.
“We have spent the past few months monitoring the situation, as well as meeting with tenants and local councillors. We have also taken on board comments made by members of the public.
“Now this phase has concluded, we have agreed the best locations for eight benches. In addition, we have given our tenants the option to extend their premises by applying for a licence for outside seating. We understand this is being considered by a small number.”