By John Baron, WLD editor
It’s been seven months since the first sit-down protest was held at Bramley Shopping Centre.
During that time, protesters have sat in sun and braved gale-force winds, heavy rain, frost and snow to stand up for a place to sit down – and get 22 benches restored after they were removed back in June.
Their tenacity, determination and the classy way they conducted themselves shows how powerful a community can be when it comes together. Today’s decision to restore 13 of the benches to their old positions around the shopping centre is testament their efforts.
It might not be the 22 benches campaigners wanted, but it’s still a brilliant result for people power.
We should expect nothing less from Bramley and its people.
Nine years ago the community came together to save historic Bramley Baths from closure, they raised thousands to build their own war memorial and two local community centres have been taken over by local community organisations.
Bramley is truly a community that pulls together for its rights. And – credit where credit is due – the campaigners were ably backed by their local councillors.
Ultimately, the reinstatement of 13 benches is down to the centre owners breaching the conditions of a planning application at the site six years ago – and the tenacity of the council and campaigners to pursue them.
But it should never have come to this. Centre owners LCP Group should have been engaging with the community and the campaigners from day one.
Admittedly they reinstated some off the benches in August following local pressure (and put them in odd places), but the penny should have at least dropped when they realised there was such a groundswell of support – two petitions with a total of 2,000 names, weekly protests and press coverage in print, online, TV and radio.
Successfully running a shopping centre isn’t just about bricks and mortar and tenants, it’s about being part of a community. The success of this campaign should not have needed the threat of legal action and it certainly should have been resolved much sooner than seven months.
Let’s hope LCP will constructively engage with the community going forward to help make the shopping centre a vibrant, successful and welcoming community asset.