Shoppers are set to continue their protests against the removal of benches at Bramley Shopping Centre – a day after the new owners said they were due to reinstate eight of them.
LCP, the national commercial property and investment company that manages Bramley Shopping Centre on behalf of the landlord Sheet Anchor, removed all 22 benches without consultation in June, claiming they were an ‘obstruction’.
Yesterday LCP said they would replace eight of them following consultations with tenants and Leeds City Council. Four benches will be put near Poundstretcher and another four close to the taxi rank and the parent and baby and disabled parking bays near Tesco.
But members of the A Place to Sit group, who have collected more than 1,000 names on a petition and have been holding weekly friendly ‘sit-ins’ at the centre, have said LCP’s move is not enough.
They say the original seating was spread across the centre, providing the best possible access for customers, and was frequently used by customers of all ages. They are calling for all the benches to be reinstated and have vowed to continue their campaign.
A statement issued to WLD today by the A Place to Sit group said:
“We’re pleased to hear back from LCP Group after hundreds of emails, letters and tweets from residents, local organisations, Ward Councillors, and the West Leeds MP.
“The proposal to reinstate eight benches is a start but it is not enough. It leaves major gaps across the centre and doesn’t accommodate the needs of people who can’t walk easily over longer distances.
“LCP Group must reinstate all of the 22 benches they removed, and consult local people about the style of bench they propose, in order to make Bramley Shopping Centre welcoming to customers once again, especially those with disabilities, long-term health conditions, and older community members.
“We are calling on national retailers based at Bramley Shopping Centre to stand up for their customers on this issue. We are calling on LCP Group to respond with a better plan; and we cordially invite LCP Group to meet with representatives from A Place to Sit to find a resolution that meets everyone’s needs.”
The statement was issued on behalf of the 900 residents who formed the campaign group in order to stand up for anyone who needs to sit down.
Group members were vocal in giving feedback to LCP Group’s proposal. Lou Leeson, of Bramley, said:
“I would like to see benches returned outside the pharmacies, as I feel these are the places people have to ‘hang around’ whilst waiting for their prescriptions. Offering to replace some benches at both ends of the centre really isn’t in the spirit of what we’ve asked for.”
Tracy Howard, of Bramley, added:
“Eight just isn’t enough. I could not do my shopping at Bramley at the beginning of this week because I have nowhere to sit and rest when I get there. I have arthritis in my hips and knees and other health conditions. It’s ridiculous, we want and need all the benches back.”
As reported by WLD yesterday, some residents posting on social media supported LCP’s move to reintroduce eight benches.
A Place to Sit is now calling on national retailers and charities who are tenants at the shopping centre to back the campaign on behalf of their customers and in line with their own community values. A campaign spokesperson added:
“We want to support the retailers here to thrive and we know that many of them are great advocates and supporters of this community.
“We ask them to voice their concerns to the Managing Director of LCP Group and let the owners know their damaging actions are reversable. Reinstate the benches they took away asap.”
National retailers at Bramley Shopping Centre include Tesco, Greggs, Mind Charity, Boots, Poundstretcher and Costa Coffee. Halifax Bank also has a branch at Bramley Shopping Centre.
Residents are holding another sit-in at Bramley Shopping Centre on Saturday 7 August, between 10am and 11am, to call on LCP Group to reinstate the benches they took out. Members of the public are encouraged and invited to attend, bringing a chair and a spare for anyone who needs to sit down.
LCP Group took over the running of the centre following a successful £10 million bid earlier this year.
An LCP spokesperson said in a statement yesterday:
“Tenants have also been offered the opportunity to have a licence to extend their premises and provide outdoor seating, should they wish to do so.
“As we pointed out a few weeks ago, we were carrying out detailed on-site surveys before making any decisions as to the future-proofing and upgrading of the centre.
“I’m pleased to say that following our improvements to the parking provision, we will be installing new benches and aim to have them in situ by the end of September, subject to the shortages currently being experienced across the whole construction industry being resolved.
“As managing agents, we are working hard to make Bramley Shopping Centre more appealing and are actively attracting new occupiers. We’re looking forward to announcing new names in the next few weeks.”