A unique piece of street furniture aimed at tackling loneliness and social isolation has been officially opened by Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan.
The Friendly Bench - a mini, kerbside community garden specially designed to connect
people to each other - has been created on Granby Drive in Bottesford.
The first of its kind anywhere in the UK, the project aims to provide a location where people can get together and enjoy plants and wildlife, particularly for an ageing population in the village and those who have mobility problems.
After trying out the bench, Sir Alan said: “I was delighted to open the Friendly Bench in Bottesford on Sunday.
“It’s a really fantastic and innovative project which I am confident will help combat loneliness in our local community.
“I wish the Friendly Bench every success and will visit when I can.”
Created and founded by Lyndsey Young, and supported by the Big Lottery Fund, The Friendly Bench is a purposefully designed raised planter garden with seating.
There are plans to extend the idea to include a network of benches nationwide.
Mrs Young said: “We are thrilled Sir Alan Duncan is supportive of The Friendly Bench.
“By creating a welcoming, inclusive, accessible and well-located place to meet, chat, rest and enjoy the benefits of being outside, or by joining in with one of our regular organised activities, The Friendly Bench will be a hub for people to connect.
“This will not only help improve our older people’s physical and mental wellbeing, it will also help strengthen community ties and connectedness across the generations and with our wider community.”
The Friendly Bench was mentioned by MP Rachel Reeves, co-chair on the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, during a recent debate on the issue at Westminster Hall.
It also has the backing of Leicestershire Police chief constable Simon Cole.
Mrs Young added: “With the help and support from Bottesford Parish Council and East Bridgford Garden and Home, who have kindly donated all of the planting and top soil, we believe The FriendlyBench will make a real difference to the lives of people in our village.”
Jim Anstey, community housing scheme manager for the nearby Warwick Flats, said: “The Friendly Bench will enable the elderly, vulnerable and the not so mobile to become part of the community again. I am confident it will be a huge success.”
Follow The Friendly Bench online at www.facebook.com/TheFriendlyBench for details about its activities.