Socially distanced 'natter bench' installed in park to help lonely people

A socially distanced ‘natter bench’ has been installed in a park to combat loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2.4-metre bench in Leeds received funding after a resident raised concerns on Facebook about an elderly woman who hadn’t spoken to anyone in a while.

Located in Hall Park in Horsforth, it fits two people who are invited to sit and ‘brighten each other’s day’ when lockdown restrictions ease, reports The Yorkshire Evening Post.

A sign next to the bench reads: ‘If you need someone to talk to, or just rest your feet – take a seat and have a chat, that’s how friends meet.’

November saw Britain’s highest levels of loneliness during the pandemic, with more than 4.2 million people admitting they were ‘always or often lonely’, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The average person has not seen their family – outside their immediate bubble – for more than 100 days, a study from Buzz Bingo recently found.

Horsforth councillors Jonathon Taylor, Dawn Collins and Jackie Shemilt came together to secure the funding for the bench.

Mr Taylor said he hoped it helped people make new friends and overcome the loneliness felt by so many during the pandemic.

‘He said: ‘The natter bench has been designed with social distancing in mind. Once the rules and guidelines say it is safe to do so, I’d encourage residents to take a moment and make time for a chat and brighten someone’s day – I think this will be so important to isolated residents, and will make a big difference in people’s lives.’

He added: ‘My ward colleagues and I are grateful to Leeds City Council’s parks officers for supporting us with sourcing the appropriate sized bench and for installing it for us so quickly.

‘If this proves a success, which we hope it will, I would like to see more natter benches in public spaces across the whole city to bring people together.’

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