By John Baron
New benches to help older and less able-bodied people to get out and about in Kirkstall and Burley have been installed.
The £30,000 project to install 16 street benches in the Kirkstall and Burley areas was approved by Leeds City Council last year and is part of the council’s Local Centres Programme, which aims to support town centres across Leeds.
Kirkstall councillor Hannah Bithell (Lab) provided an update on the scheme this week. She said: “In 2020 we first shared our ambition to spend our district centres money to support older and less able bodied people across Kirkstall and Burley to walk and access the district centre.
“One of the legacies of Covid, was a breakdown in people’s fitness and strength due to lockdown and isolation. These benches will give the opportunity to continue to build this fitness back up, and if it doesn’t come back, provide a permanent stopping point so people can still access shops and the district centre.”
Cllr Bithell said consultation had been carried out on social media and with affected householders, which led to six of the benches being moved to places ‘people are happier with’.
“I know there is a lot of fear of anti-social behaviour around there being any benches, but our older residents shouldn’t be trapped in their homes due to poor behaviour, so I will make sure I work with you all and police should any issues come up,” she added.
“Please contact me on Hannah.Bithell@Leeds.gov.uk if something does start to be an issue and of course contact the police and LASBT as well.
“Another message I have seen and agree with is some of the benches are not looking at the most delightful views. They are more focused on the operational task of being on a route and in the least annoying location within that area, whilst also not obstructing the highway.
“This is why a lot of them are on the verge rather than the pavement looking out. I would love to work with residents to create some art etc that we could put in front of the benches that do give something to look at that is more pleasant moving forward. Again please e-mail if you have any ideas.”
Other Local Centres Programme schemes in West Leeds
The Local Centres Programme was launched several years ago, with £150,000 allocated for each ward to spend.
Council budget cuts in 2020 meant that the amount was reduced to £30,000 per ward, with only four schemes completed at the full cost, including one which included on‐street parking improvements, pedestrian crossing points and bus stops on Rodley Town Street.
Work has started in Pudsey on delayed plans for Queen’s Jubilee garden on a patch of land at the junction of Church Lane and Radcliffe Lane, outside Pudsey Parish Church. The land had been used as an informal and unadopted car park for around 40 years.
And in Bramley proposals include forecourt improvements to a parade of shops in Upper Town Street.