By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas
Gosport Borough Council will shortly be publishing the operational details of its Commemorative Bench Seat policy.
Currently, the council’s website states it is, “unable to accept any new requests until further notice whilst a review of the service is being undertaken.”
The review was completed last year and the Commemorative Bench Seat Policy 2021 was approved at the November 3rd meeting of the council’s Community Board.
The Globe has now been informed that the details of how the policy will be operated are to be published on the website early next month.
There will be a fee
A council spokesperson said the full details are being finalised but added: “Benches will be offered at Lee-on-the-Solent promenade and in council-owned parks and open spaces.
“Anyone currently waiting for a response to a commemorative bench enquiry will be contacted directly by the council with an update.
“The fee for the purchase, installation and maintenance of a bench and plaque will vary depending on location, design and manufacturer costs.
“Recently, costs have typically been between £750 and £950. We don’t yet know what the new costs will be, but we don’t expect them to change significantly.”
New commemorative bench seats will be leased for 10 years in the first instance and renewable every five years for a fee which is expected to be £50.
However, in the case of existing commemorative bench seats, the policy states: “the original applicant will be contacted and advised that a further 10 year agreement will apply at no cost.”
Stokes Bay is ‘full’ but there are other locations
The reason for the review and introduction of a new policy was that all of the bench seats along Stokes Bay front had been allocated and the waiting list closed.
Councillor Philip Raffaelli – who chairs the Community Board – said: “The council has been putting in commemorative benches for more than 30 years and over the last few years it has become increasingly popular.”
“We have the maximum number along Stokes Bay and other areas are getting popular.”
As the policy statement implies, there is a balance to be struck between meeting the demand for commemorative bench seats in remembrance of people’s loved ones and, at the same time, making sure the number of bench seats does not, “detract from the prime purpose of the park, open space or seafront and ensure that the area remains aesthetically pleasing.”
The officer’s report to the board stated: “The maintenance fee charged will cover the on-going maintenance and provide an additional income that will supplement the existing budget held for the annual maintenance of the Borough’s bench seat stock.”
Anyone applying for a commemorative bench seat should make themselves aware of the new terms and conditions when they are published.
The policy statement makes it clear, for example: “Where a plaque or commemorative bench seat becomes damaged beyond economical repair for any reason other than general wear and tear such as vandalism, third party damage, etc, the Council reserves the right to remove the bench and not provide a replacement.”
And: “Where a commemorative bench seat remains serviceable and there is a request to address cosmetic damage the applicant will be liable for any costs incurred.”
Waiting lists may be in operation for certain locations and it can take up to 12 weeks to install the bench and plaque once an application has been agreed.
It may be possible to identify new spaces in the borough which could accommodate commemorative bench seats.
Certainly, there was a strong hint from Councillor Raffaelli when he said: “We are looking at other areas, taking into account the natural environment.”
Finally, the council has made it clear it will not grant applications for commemorative benches in memory of pets.
Photograph (top): bench seats at Stokes Bay