Protest over plan to remove tree seats

Terry Henson stood by one of the seats with a placard on February 18 to raise awareness of plans to remove them

A RESIDENT took to the high street in Downend to protest over plans to remove wooden seating around trees.

Terry Henson was one of five volunteers who helped build the first of the decking seats on top of a tree planter next to the Scout war memorial, outside Sainsbury’s Local, about seven years ago.

Since then another six seats have been added around the bases of trees at the sides of Downend Road and Badminton Road, with new walls, made from interlocking wooden sections, put up around the old stonework.

But the seats and wooden walls are now set to be removed, and the stonework underneath renewed. Downend & Bromley Heath Parish Council asked South Gloucestershire Council to carry out the work, and agreed to pay the estimated £12,400 cost.

The money will be taken from the parish council’s £19,000 fund of Community Infrastructure Levy money, paid by companies building local developments.

A former member of Downend & Bromley Heath In Bloom, which coordinated the original work, Terry made the interlocking wooden blocks for the walls around the planters.

He said the wood was funded by South Gloucestershire Council, which is now being paid to remove it.

Terry said: “It’s a waste of money. Now is the wrong time to do this, when there are so many other things out there, crying out for money.”

He said the planters were rootbound and contained bugs which made growing plants in them impossible.

Terry added: “The seating outside Sainsbury’s is well used. People sit there in the summer to eat and chat. The seat by the bus stop is used by people waiting for the bus.

“With an ageing population, there is a need for places for older people to sit.”

Parish and South Gloucestershire councillor James Griffiths proposed the changes, and said  plans for new seats would be brought to the council.

He said: “The Parish appreciates the hard work undertaken by Terry and other residents to construct the wooden planter surrounds, when the planters needed immediate repair.”

But Cllr Griffiths said there had been reports of antisocial behaviour, groups congregating, increased littering and smashed glass around some of the seats.

He said: “The high street is supposed to be a place where we feel safe and at home, but these issues make it a less welcoming environment.

“On top of this, the current seating material has resulted in a dirty and slippery surface, which can be a nuisance and even hazardous for the residents.”