A HEATED debate has been sparked by the removal of a public bench from a Chester community.
Reg Barritt, general secretary of Handbridge Residents Council, is angry Steve Vaughan from the Esso garage extracted the bench, arguing it is needed as a resting place for pedestrians.
But Mr Vaughan, who is adamant he had permission to take it away, said he and older residents in nearby Queens Park House were fed up with anti-social behaviour associated with the bench including late-night rowdiness and drug dealing.
Mr Barritt, supported by some pensioners and city and county councillor Stephen Mosley, said: “Several people have come to me and said that bench shouldn’t have been taken away.”
Mr Barritt said he had “some sympathies” with those concerned about anti-social behaviour, but added: “I think the phone box is what is attracting the drug dealing. The amount of anti-social behaviour the bench was attracting was exaggerated.”
Mr Vaughan said he gained permission from the council to remove the bench because he was told the city council blacksmith was away.
However, council environment director Peter Hartwell claims its removal was “not authorised by an officer of Chester City Council”.
Mr Vaughan said: “There were syringes around it, the phone box was damaged constantly, there was vomit and litter around it. I have never seen very many older people sat on it.”
Ron Hinde, chairman of the residents association at Queens Park House, said: “Apart from the vandalism there was all the disruption at night, the obscene language, people on the street doing everything on the street bar sit on it.
“Since it’s gone we have had a quiet spell with no vandalism, no syringes left whatsoever and we don’t want to go back to that.”
A decision over whether to reinstall the bench hangs in the balance following a heated public meeting in March where both sides put their arguments as to whether it should make a comeback.
A report with a list of options will be considered.
Cllr Mosley said: “I think that benches don’t cause anti-social behaviour because people do.”