Words: John Baron
Discussions over the removal of all the benches at Bramley Shopping Centre are ongoing, the company behind the controversial decision has said.
As reported by West Leeds Dispatch, the sudden removal of at least 16 benches at the site has caused a big outcry among shoppers in Bramley, and on Saturday led to a flashmob of residents bringing their own seats to the centre to make their points heard.
A spokesman for LCP, the national commercial property and investment company that manages Bramley Shopping Centre on behalf of the landlord Sheet Anchor, today told the Dispatch that consultation with local councillors and centre tenants regarding improvements is ongoing. He said:
“We have carried out surveys and the responses are being reviewed before any decisions are made.
“However, as managing agent for the centre, LCP is committed to investing long-term in Bramley, to ensure there are upgrades across the site that will make it more up to date and appealing for shoppers and visitors.”
In their original statement two weeks ago, LCP said that the benches had been an “obstruction” on the pathways and said tenants could apply to the centre manager to put additional seating outside their businesses.
The spokesperson added today that LCP is committed to improving parking provision, removing the 2.5 hour maximum stay it inherited when it bought the centre earlier this year.
Instead, visitors will be allowed to stay for free for two hours and a small charge will apply for up to six hours.
The charges, which will be introduced in July, will be: £1 for the third hour, £1.50 for an additional two hours and £2 for an additional four hours. These charges will not apply to tenants and their staff, residents and visitors to residents’ homes.
Today’s statement follows a representative from LCP discuss local concerns with Bramley & Stanningley councillors Caroline Gruen, Jools Heselwood and Kevin Ritchie and a representative from MP Rachel Reeves’ office on Friday.
Prior to the meeting the councillors had submitted an extensive dossier outlining a strong case for the return of the benches, including the equality impact, representations from the community as well as an evidence-based argument that having benches benefits the centre economically.
A statement issued afterwards by councillors said:
“While there was an agreement to the principle of reinstating some benches, we were disappointed that the representative from LCP came to the meeting without a definitive response to our proposal, but rather tried to negotiate the numbers of benches proposed down. However he did undertake to take our proposal back to his board for a decision.”
The councillors added: “The centre is privately owned but they indicated they are here for the long term, looking to invest and improve the centre and committed to future meetings with us, in advance of decision making.
“We are determined to stand up for and represent the people of Bramley and continue to be deeply unhappy with the current situation concerning the benches in the shopping centre.
“We will continue to update you on our representations, we thank the Bramley community for their input and support for the campaign.”
On the issue of reducing free parking from two and a half hours to two, the councillors added:
“This compares with the current 2.5 hours free parking in a 24-hour period, where people have been hit with fines for return visits within the same day, even when within a cumulative under 2.5 hours.
“They are still working on the specifics and noted our concerns, committing to continuously review the parking situation as time progresses. We clearly advised that any introduction of parking charges in advance of demonstrating a commitment to resolving the public seating issue, would likely result in further public outcry.”
Another friendly sit-down flashmob has been organised by centre users for this Saturday morning, from 10am-11am. Attendees are invited to come along and bring a couple of chairs.
Earlier this year LCP bought Bramley Shopping Centre on behalf of Sheet Anchor Investments, one of the LCP Group of managed companies. They have acquired £80m of shopping centres in recent months, including in Trafford, Daventry, Sheffield and Kent.
With regard to the seating, can I just point out that I am aware of one person who was very glad of the ‘informal’ seating outside the MIND charity shop on the Centre yesterday, for rest and refuge, while she was suffering an angina attack. Has the Managing Agent considered instances like that?
The item says the new parking charges commence in July. It is July 1st tomorrow – so from then? Or when exactly? And how is the charging system going to work? Have the seats been removed to make way for parking meters? By phone? By internet? If so that again would impinge to a greater extent on the more elderly shoppers at the Centre, who are less likely to be internet savvy or even have a smart phone?
Good question. I understand they’re still ironing out the details so there’s no exact date yet. We’ll keep people in the loop as to when it’s starting. John Baron – editor
Just to point out that my comment was made before the article was apparently amended to include the latter part, about further representations being made by the Councillors, following their meeting with LCP.
Thanks for your comment, Startled Jesus. Just to clarify that the article hasn’t been amended or edited in any way since we published it. John. Editor
Such a shame that the company in question still seems to be missing the point about accessibility.
Pleased to see people are keeping up the fight. If there was a petition I’d gladly sign it.
Thanks to West Leeds Dispatch for all your coverage of this issue
Fair dos. I must have failed to scroll down far enough.