Anger after public benches removed from Bramley Shopping Centre by new owners
Residents in west Leeds have reacted with anger after benches were removed from Bramley Shopping Centre this week.
It comes after the shopping centre was purchased by commercial property and investment company LCP earlier this year.
Speaking in the online Bramley community group, shoppers criticised the move, stating that it would have a negative affect on older and disabled people using the centre.
However, LCP said that the benches were an "obstruction" to pathways.
MP Rachel Reeves (Lab, Leeds West) and Bramely and Stanningley councillors, Kevin Ritchie, Caroline Gruen and Julie Heselwood have raised the issue with the new owners.
In a joint statement, councillors Ritchie, Gruen & Heselwood, expressed their disappointment at the decision.
The statement reads: "On Tuesday, June 8 Bramley & Stanningley councillors were made aware via social media and contact from constituents, that all the public seating was being removed from Bramley Shopping Centre.
"With the assistance of the office of Rachel Reeves we contacted the new owners of the shopping centre to express our and the community concerns about this.
"We sought to establish the rationale behind these removals and plans to replace them, pointing out our view public seating is a valued resource, particularly for older customers.
"We were told in response 'In regards the benches, yes we have instructed these to be removed, as following our due diligence we felt these were blocking the common area walkways and there is outdoor seating available from retailers such Costa'.
The statement continues: "Follow-up correspondence made clear our opposition to this and to seek an urgent meeting to discuss finding a solution and establishing a good working relationship going forwards, as we had with the previous owners, since the site is of great importance and a valued asset in our community.
"In our view the move is a retrograde step, making access worse and could be in breach of the Equality Act, since people will have nowhere to rest during shopping, may have to curtail their trip or in some cases now be unable to shop independently any more, or may need to acquire a mobility scooter.
"Following a telephone conversation this morning, the shopping centre management have agreed to consider reinstating some of the benches following a consultation with us for appropriate locations.
"The shopping centre is privately owned other than the bus terminal, but they have pledged to work constructively with us going forwards to best serve the interests of Shoppers and their Tenants."
The councillors also stated that they had been told by LCP that the free parking would be reduced from two hours 30 minutes to two hours from July.
A spokesman for LCP, which manages Bramley Shopping Centre, said: “The benches were removed because they were causing an obstruction on the common area pathways.
“Any decisions made are done so with the best interests of our tenants and shoppers and we will consider if new outdoor seating arrangements can be made once we’ve had chance to assess the impact of the change.
"However, there is external seating outside Costa Coffee and retailers can request the same by applying to the landlord for its consideration.”