Bramley Shopping Centre bench row: Campaigners to present petition to Leeds City Council

A group which has campaigned against the removal of benches from Bramley Shopping Centre will take a deputation to Leeds City Council today.

By Rebecca Marano
Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 10:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 10:52 am

The benches were suddenly removed from the centre in early June, sparking anger from local residents.

The decision was made by the new owners LCP, a commercial property and investment company that purchased the retail park for £10m.

Local councillors Kevin Ritchie, Julie Heselwood and Caroline Gruen and Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves were inundated with complaints, concerns, anger and dismay from the community.

A sit-in protest has been held every Saturday since the benches were removed from Bramley Shopping Centre.

LCP, who manage the centre on behalf of the landlord Sheet Anchor, announced that it would reinstate some of the benches at the site in August.

However, Leeds City Council advised the owners to reinstate all 22 of the benches that were removed from the site else it would breach a 2015 planning application.

Today, local community group, ‘A Place to Sit’ will present a petition with more than 1,000 signatures in a deputation to the full meeting of the council.

Councillor Kevin Ritchie said: “The ‘Place to Sit’ group are just good Bramley folk, who provide the custom and the footfall which keeps the centre in profit and this simple request from its customers is simply falling on deaf ears by the shopping Centre bosses.

A 'Place to Sit' campaign group will be taking a petition to Leeds City Council today after the benches were removed from Bramley Shopping Centre.

“‘Residents have contacted us upset that messages they have been sent have been ignored and that many members of the group have been blocked on social media.

"They have also taken issue with the Centre claiming the seating was a safety hazard and would like to draw attention to a planning condition from 2018 when the car park was extended that stated the original number of benches needed to remain in place.

“My colleagues councillors Heselwood and Gruen and I had an excellent relationship with the previous owners and manager, working very successfully together in the interest of our community. We just cannot understand this refusal to listen to the very people they rely on for their business.

“We all simply want somewhere to sit, chat to other shoppers, put down our bags for a moment or perhaps eat a sandwich purchased from one of the shops. Is that really such a difficult ask?”

Since the removal of the benches, local community group ‘A Place to Sit’, which now has 1.1K members on Facebook, have gathered in the shopping centre, weekly on Saturday mornings between 10.00am and 11.00am bringing their own chairs and benches to sit where the benches used to be, in friendly protest to ask for seating to be re instated.

The protests have included performances by live musicians and entertainers, and many members of ‘A Place to Sit’ have written poems, jingles and songs to get their message over.

The Saturday protest is now in week 20 and has been supported by the councillors and West Leeds MP Rachel Reeves, who is also a tenant of the centre.

The ward councillors and local MP are backing the residents’ campaign and continue to press LCP over their plans for the future of the Bramley Centre. Rachel Reeves MP is seeking a meeting with the Managing Director of LPC to ensure that the interests of the local community are heard.