A 'Natter Bench' has been installed in a Horsforth park in a bid to help tackle loneliness after lockdown.

The 2.4 metre bench will allow for socially distanced chats and is the first of its kind in Leeds.

Horsforth ward councillors Jonathon Taylor, Dawn Collins and Jackie Shemilt have secured funding for the bench, which has been put in place in Hall Park ready for the end of the current lockdown period.

If the scheme proves successful councillors hope others could be put in place across Leeds.

The idea came from a Facebook community group, where residents discussed noticing more elderly people sat alone as lockdown restrictions were eased last year.

To support isolated residents at the end of the current lockdown period, ward councillors ordered a 2.4m (8ft) bench to allow for socially distanced chats. The bench is accompanied by a sign encouraging those who would like a natter with someone to sit and make a new friend, whilst allowing for a passer-by to take some time out and speak with someone who may be feeling in need of some company.

Wording for the sign also came through the community, with Horsforth’s Asset Based Community Development co-ordinator Claire Evans, Rev Nigel Sinclair from St Margaret’s Church, Sally Metcalfe from MHA Communities, and Kezia Roberts from Horsforth’s Walk of Art coming together to create the right message. The Horsforth ward councillors, who are all conservative, said they looked forward to seeing the bench in use at the end of lockdown, and believe it will foster meaningful friendships among residents.

Cllr Taylor said:“Some of the best ideas come from our community, and this is another example. We know more people are suffering with loneliness following the restrictions this year and

installing this bench in our park specifically to meet friends, make new friends, or to encourage someone to join for a few minutes will hopefully help overcome this.

"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.

"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. As we have done throughout this difficult year, we continue to work on behalf of our residents in Horsforth and Rawdon.”