Complaints lead to removal of ‘Plasticine’ seats

CONTROVERSIAL seats labelled an eyesore and a pain in the backside by shoppers and visitors are to be removed.

Visitors to North Shields town centre have been complaining about the Plasticine-style seats in Bedford Street ever since their installation two years ago.

The seats were fitted by North Tyneside Council in 2009 as a tribute to Plasticine inventor William Harbutt.

Harbutt was born in the town in 1844 and went on to invent Plasticine in 1897.

He died in New York, the US city rather than the North Tyneside village, in 1921.

The seats were intended as a tribute to his invention, originally intended as an aid for art students, but have not proved as popular with shoppers.

They have come in for criticism for being uncomfortable, unappealing and unattractive.

That criticism has led the council to agree to replace the seats with conventional metal benches.

The Plasticine-style seats will be relocated by their manufacturer at no cost to the council.

The decision follows a public consultation exercise last year revealing a consensus among shoppers and businesses that sites elsewhere in the borough could offer more appropriate locations for the current seats.

John Fleet, the council’s town centres manager, said: “We’ve listened to residents’ views regarding the existing seating in Bedford Street.

“We believe we have come up with a solution that meets the needs of all concerned.”

Traders in the town have welcomed the news.

David Bavaird, chairman of North Shields Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: “The chamber welcomes the changes to the seating in Bedford Street, and the new seating will be of assistance to all visitors to the town centre.

“We welcome any changes which will make our town centre more attractive to residents and visitors alike.”

The current seating – consisting of modular curved benches formed from cast coloured concrete – will be moved to Tyne Metropolitan College in Wallsend and possibly another site in the borough.

Work will begin in Bedford Street during the week beginning Monday, November 14, and will take about two weeks.

Officials hope the replacement seats will be in place in time for the start of the North Shields Victorian Market, due to run from Saturday, December 10, to Sunday, December 11.

North Shields-based Marshall Urban Structures, the seats’ manufacturer, is removing and reinstalling them at no charge.

A number of other Plasticine-style seats not installed as part of the original project were due to be fitted alongside the TyneAnew sculpture at Royal Quays in North Shields today.