CAMPAIGNERS for the elderly claim a shopping centre’s decision to remove all the public seating could put pensioners’ lives at risk.
The operators of Spring Gardens Shopping Centre in Buxton claim the move was necessary as the well-used seats no longer met health and safety guidelines.
But Katy Pugh, Chief Executive of Age UK Derby & Derbyshire, said: “Without adequate seating those with poor mobility will not be able to shop as they rely on seats for rest and to ease pain and discomfort from long-term health conditions.
“A rest can literally be a life-saver for those with angina – and the ability to shop, visit the town centre for opticians and dental appointments, etc, can be an important element in maintaining independence and wellbeing.”
She said the seating also provided an opportunity to rest and have a chat – which for an isolated older person was an important and rare opportunity for social contact.
A spokesperson for the shopping centre said: “The safety of our customers is paramount. A recent risk assessment of the centre identified the existing seats as no longer being compliant with current health and safety guidelines. “They are being removed and we are looking into various options for the future.
“In the meantime, I would encourage shoppers in need of a rest to use the centre’s cafe facility and I would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
However Ms Pugh said: “Whilst I appreciate Spring Gardens Shopping Centre have a responsibility for health and safety I wonder what risks the seats represented and whether all the seats represent such a significant risk.”
“I am also disappointed that they have not given a commitment to replacing the seating and a timescale. I hope the council and local retailers are looking into this as a matter of urgency as all the shopping area will be affected by this decision.
“I also wonder what local people and various users of the seating feel about the decision. For many people of all ages, including tourists, part of the pleasure of shopping and visiting Buxton is the vibrant, busy and friendly shopping area. If an element of this is to be removed it will affect all parts of the community and the economy.”
The Advertiser had already been contacted by shoppers complaining about the move.
A regular visitor from Rowsley said: “This is making life difficult for the old and people like myself who need somewhere to rest for a few minutes.
“I hope sufficient decent people will complain and this will be changed. I hope to continue our visits to Buxton but if I find my legs cannot cope with the area that has no seats to rest on I will have to reluctantly travel further afield.”