Campaign for city centre bench successful thanks to elderly resident

Mrs Sivyer (centre) pictured with Cllr Mandy McNeil (left) and Sarah Torrence (right). Picture: St Albans BID

Mrs Sivyer (centre) pictured with Cllr Mandy McNeil (left) and Sarah Torrence (right). Picture: St Albans BID - Credit: Archant

An elderly St Albans resident has won her fight to get a permanent bench installed outside the St Albans Museum + Gallery, after campaigning for it for the best part of a decade.

Maureen Sivyer, with the help of her daughter and granddaughter, brought the campaign online in the past year and created a local petition on Facebook to push for the bench.

Mrs Sivyer will be presented her bench on Friday, December 11 in an unveiling ceremony, with her as guest of honour.

Granddaughter Alice Young said: “My grandmother has been petitioning since 2012 to allow for a permanent bench to be placed outside of what was then the St Albans City Hall, now the St Albans Museum.

“She received, from the council, continued assurances over the years that this lack of accessible seating would be rectified, until 2019.

“After the renovation of the town hall into the museum, she was told that a bench could not be erected due to the need to keep the space open for official events, and so as not to get in the way of the market.

“By adding a bench, St Albans will become a more accessible town for those elderly and disabled people who live here.”

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Cllr Mandy McNeil, vice chair of St Albans BID, and St Albans District Council public realm officer Sarah Torrence supported Mrs Sivyer’s campaign and, with funding from BID, have installed the bench.

Cllr Mandy McNeil said: “Central seating for our older and disabled members of the community are vital so they can come and enjoy the city centre with everyone else. It is also a part of the BID’s place-shaping strategy, and so I was delighted to help make this happen over the past few months.

“The Museum and town centre have been a community hub for many and it’s nice to think that Mrs Sivyer and others will be able to rest and enjoy the view while carrying her regular shopping home.

“If we want to keep our High Street vibrant, we need to remember that it’s at its heart, a neighbourhood and community hub, accessible and welcoming to all.

“Mrs Sivyer has said she wants to see in the New Year with the best view in town and Denise, [BID vice-chair] Sarah Gillow and I hope we can join her!”

BID manager Denise Parsons added: “I was absolutely delighted to meet with a local resident Mrs Sivyer and hear all about her lengthy campaign and help to finally get the bench installed.

“Our city centre businesses want residents to be able to sit and dwell in our town centre and enjoy the view. A sense of community in our city centre is very important especially now.

“We hope to be installing more benches in the future.”

Mrs Sivyer said: “I would like to say a big thank you to the St Albans BID team who have generously provided this bench for the people of St Albans, and also to St Albans council, particularly Alison and Sarah.

“I’d like to thank all of the St Albans residents who supported my petition which helped to make this possible.”

Cllr Anthony Rowlands, portfolio holder for leisure, heritage and public realm for St Albans District and City Council, said: “I am very pleased that we have added another bench to the city centre street scene.

“My thanks go to Maureen Sivyer who has campaigned tirelessly for some years to have a bench put up on this spot and has dedicated it to the people of St Albans. My thanks also to St Albans BID which has provided the finance.

“It’s a very fine bench and I’m sure our residents and visitors to the city will be appreciative of their efforts for years to come.”