Market Place request for bench is refused

A memorial bench in Newcastle.
A memorial bench in Newcastle.

A request to place a memorial bench in Morpeth Market Place has been turned down.

Army veteran Dave Herne, who served in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, has led a fund-raising campaign to purchase two of the black public seats that include a poignant graphic.

He suggested a spot in front of Hays Travel for one of them.

Although members of Morpeth Town Council’s property and asset management committee praised Mr Herne for successfully collecting the required money for two benches, the majority agreed with clerk Tracey Bell’s assessment that the requested location was not suitable.

She said: “We explained to Mr Herne that the allocated seating on the Market Place has been paid for and there are no more seats available.

“The seating layout was designed in such a way to allow a flow through the Market Place, which is particularly important on market days.

“The location he suggested would block the only natural gap for going in and out in that part of the market and traders have raised concerns through the Morpeth Markets Partnership.

“We have suggested a space at the Cenotaph as we believe it’s an ideal location for this type of seat, but Mr Herne turned this offer down.”

She added that the pavements around the outside of the Market Place are the jurisdiction of Northumberland County Council and it had suggested a spot in this area, but Mr Herne said this was not suitable.

The former town councillor, who was on holiday when the committee meeting took place, said the Market Place was identified for one of the benches because this was where the troops mustered before marching up to the railway station and it would ‘enable those who cannot walk up to the Cenotaph to have somewhere to sit and remember’.

Following discussions with Northern Rail, the other bench is set to be located on the southbound platform.

Mr Herne’s application said: ‘If the bench was to be placed in front of Joes Pet Supplies, I would then understand you saying it was blocking entry to the Market Place, but not in front of Hays Travel.’

He took photographs of the proposed location during the weekly Wednesday market and monthly farmers’ market, which he believes shows there is enough space for the seat not to get in the way.

Committee chairman Coun Dave Pope said only half of the space shown on Mr Herne’s photographs was available when he went along to a recent Wednesday market and when music events take place there, the gap is used to connect equipment to the electricity point.

He added: “We should reiterate that we are totally in favour of having this seat, but it can’t be in a location that causes problems in the Market Place.”

Five councillors voted in favour of the recommendation to refuse the request and Coun Johnny Wearmouth abstained.

Keith and Margaret Peters of Facets Jewellery by Design next to Hays Travel spoke in favour of the request at the meeting, saying it would be a popular addition to the Market Place.

They also said their views should be given the same level of importance as those of the market traders.

After the meeting, Coun Wearmouth said: “Without the applicant there to address these issues, I did not feel that we had enough information to make an informed decision.

“I am in favour of the bench in principle and think in the right location, it will be a touching and appropriate memorial to those brave local men who gave their lives for our country.

“I would like the applicant to consider each concern that was raised and present evidence to counter them in a re-submitted application so that a solution can be found.”