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Crawley MP sparks health and safety row
9:32am Friday 7th September 2012 in News
AN MP sparked a row after claiming that a council refused to allow a bench to be installed under a tree for health and safety reasons.
Crawley MP Henry Smith sparked a Parliamentary debate on over-zealous health and safety regulations yesterday when he claimed that Crawley Borough Council had been told benches under trees had to be removed because they posed a safety risk.
However, the MP’s claims were quickly rejected by Crawley Borough Council and the Health and Safety Executive, who said the bench had been rejected because of its appearance.
Mr Smith raised the issue after learning that Pound Hill (North) Residents’ Association had its proposals for a bench to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee rejected earlier this year.
Alan Quine, acting chairman of the association, said the proposals to have a circular bench set beneath a tree in Worth Park Gardens were rejected by the council because of health and safety fears.
He said: “We thought the suggestion would be something they welcomed but when we were told it would be a health and safety issue we decided we wouldn’t argue with the council.
Their plans for benches were rebuffed mainly for style reasons and had nothing to do with health and safetyHealth and safety executive spokeswoman
“The bench would have gone beneath a monkey puzzle tree and it’s not like things drop down from those sort of trees.
“Will they be telling people to stick to the paths and not walk under trees next?”
Speaking outside the Commons, Mr Smith said: “They were told they couldn’t have this circular bench around the tree because the council had been told they had to remove all park benches from underneath trees.
“In my view this is clearly absurd. It just seems to me to be an extreme example of health and safety advice gone mad.”
A Crawley Borough Council spokeswoman said the request for a bench was rejected because the style of the bench was not suitable for the park, which is undergoing a major renovation to restore it to “its former Victorian glory”.
The council claimed its reasoning had been “miscommunicated” when reported in the residents’ association’s news-letter.
She added: “Crawley Borough Council has not been removing benches from under trees due to health safety issues and the Health and Safety Executive has never advised us to do so.
“It was also felt that the tree could grow and break a bench which encased the trunk, and one of the officers had also seen an article some time ago which recommended caution about placing benches under trees.”
A Health and Safety Executive spokeswoman said: “The Health and Safety Executive did not advise Crawley Borough Council to remove benches from under trees.
“Their plans for benches were rebuffed mainly for style reasons and had nothing to do with health and safety.”
Brighton and Hove City Council said it had no plans to remove benches |from under trees while East Sussex County Council said it had not advised its borough and district councils to take any action either.