Residents call for their benches to be returned after the council removes its public benches to allow for social distancing.

Wallingford resident Sarah Webb is furious that the benches have been taken away and says that all but two have been removed from Market Square.

The benches were taken away from Market Square during the winter lockdown, apart from two which are bolted to the ground.

South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) suggested removing the benches could stop people from congregating especially when the Friday market attracted more people to the area.

Wallingford Town Council removed the benches and used the opportunity to refurbish them.

However, now it has been decided by a council committee that the benches will not be put back until later this month on June 21, to coincide with when restrictions could be eased.

Ms Webb does not understand why the public benches are still a Covid risk.

She said: “Why do we have to wait until restrictions ease?

“Why should the town suffer just because the market is there for a few hours on a Friday?”

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She added: “If we have all the cafes open then why can’t people take a seat outside rather than sitting inside a cafe?”

Ms Webb also had concerns for the ageing population in Wallingford, as well as children or those with disabilities needing somewhere to sit while shopping in the town.

Wallingford Town Council wrote on their Facebook Page to explain to residents why the benches had been removed and when they will be reinstated.

A spokesperson from the council wrote: “The decision to not bring the benches back was taken at the most recent Park’s, Gardens, Allotments and Open Spaces meeting.

“SODC have been guiding all towns during all the lockdowns on best procedures, advice on what can be done to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

“One of the ideas was to take away the benches, two are bolted so cannot be removed. The benches were removed to allow spacing on the Market place and whilst removed they would be repainted.

“Times of good weather and local events, i.e. markets, music in town, increase the number of people congregating around benches.

“Despite posters, notices, banners, social media, not everyone follow Government Guidelines, and this was one area that we could support SODC and control the number of people meeting. Benches have not been removed in any of the other lovely areas of town.”

Four councillors have requested that consideration should be given to overturning the resolution made by the Park’s, Gardens, Allotments and Open Space committee on April 24. The councillors are calling for the benches to be reinstated immediately and will discuss this problem on Thursday at 7pm.

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