New city centre bench is nice, but costly and a bit cold - the people have their say

It's the pricey imported pew that forms the centrepiece of the big Wolverhampton city centre revamp.

New city centre bench is nice, but costly and a bit cold - the people have their say

And now the people of the city have had their say on the £20,000 granite bench that has been installed for them to rest their weary feet.

The bench, which was hand crafted in China, has been placed outside the Betfred bookies in the newly pedestrianised Princess Street.

It is split into two curved parts that face in opposite directions and features an engraving evoking Wolverhampton's history with an extract from Robert Plot's 1686 tome The Natural History of Staffordshire.

But the inscription was lost on Christine Rose, aged 68, from Merridale, who said: "I can't really understand the inscription or see its relevance.

'Cold' – Christie Rose

"As for the bench, it is a bit cold to sit on but it looks nice.

"However, I don't think they should have closed the road off and done any of this work here, to me it is just not going to work."

Funding for the bench has come from so-called Section 106 money – an agreement by developers to contribute funding towards projects that benefit the community as part of their planning permission.

But even though it has not cost taxpayers anything, the high price tag is still a talking point.

Charles Edwards, aged 58, from Whitmore Reans, said: "I don't understand why they would spend £20,000 on a bench.

"It is surrounded by smaller benches that I imagine cost next to nothing.

"It does look good but it is just a bench and that is too much money.

"I do think it will be good for older people to stop and relax on their walks, but I just can't believe the money."

Charles Edwards

Alex Walker, 73, from Penkridge, added: "I think £20,000 could have gone to something more beneficial for the town as a whole.

"It is nice and artistic, it looks good, but it should have been spent on something else."

The bench has been described by council bosses as a combination of an art feature with street furniture.

Councillor John Reynolds, cabinet member for the city's economy, said it was a welcome addition.

"It is one of those quite stunning and really unusual things, and I think people will stop and look at it and wonder what's it doing in Wolverhampton," he said.

"I think the key thing to say to people is that it is not being paid for by public money and is being paid for in essence by local businesses developing the city centre.

"So in in that respect it's money appropriately spent.

"The bench is art put in a place where people wouldn't expect to see it."

It is hoped it will encourage people to sit and relax in the city centre and contribute to regeneration plans for the city.

However, one passer by said the city needs more than a fancy new bench to bring people in.

Sheila Pratt, 70, from Bradmore, said: "I think it is absolutely rubbish, I have to say.

'Rubbish' – Sheila Pratt

"You go to Birmingham and there is just a wow factor about the place.

"Wolverhampton isn't like that, the shops are empty and there really isn't much to look at.

"I don't think this is going to change that at all."

The piece has been crafted from black granite in a workshop almost 5,000 miles away under the guidance of design firm Hardscape.

Work on the bench started in June this year and it was shipped over from China and work to put it into place in Princess Street started last week. Positive feedback on the bench from the public focussed on its spaciousness and contribution to the look of Princess Street.

Christopher Handley, aged 24, from Wednesfield, said: "It is comfy and relaxing to have a sit on.

"It is also good for the little kids, they have a bit of space to play about and have some fun."

Keith Harris, aged 73, from Codsall, praised the bench and said more places to relax are needed.

He said: "I think it is great. We need more seats and places to relax in town, especially in the summer.

"People put Wolverhampton down but in 10 years it is going to be a great place.

"I think this is a move in the right direction."

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