A BENCH removed from Whitehaven town centre by a disgruntled business owner must be put back in its original position, a council has ruled.

The seating owned by Whitehaven Town Council ‘disappeared’ from upper King Street last month and the incident was reported to the police. It was second time the bench had been removed from its position. 

Balazs Csomor, owner of the Angry Boba - a bubble tea and ice cream shop - later admitted that he had removed it.

He said the town council failed to respond to a complaint he made and the bench was ‘being stored securely’ until a resolution was found. He returned the bench to the town council last week.

A discussion on the reinstallation of the seating was originally scheduled to be held in private at Whitehaven Town Council’s latest meeting, which would have excluded members of the public and the press.

Marlene Jewell, town clerk, said this was because the town council had not received all the required information but this had since been issued and the discussion was moved to the public part of the meeting.

Mrs Jewell said she had received correspondence from Cumberland Council which said the bench must be reinstated back to its original position.

Cllr Edwin Dinsdale, who represents Whitehaven Central South, asked Cllr Chris Hayes, mayor of Whitehaven, about comments he made to the shop owner, in which he said his business would be ‘blacklisted’.

Cllr Dinsdale asked Cllr Hayes if this was appropriate and if he was prepared to apologise.

Cllr Graham Roberts, who represents the Harras ward, then interjected, saying it was ‘out of order’ and should be discussed in private. Cllr Roberts said: “That is a separate issue altogether.”

Cllr Dinsdale then asked what the grounds were for asking for the issue to be discussed in private.

He said: “Who would support a council that is wanting to do its business in the shadows? We’ve got to be open and honest to the people we represent. It warrants a public discussion.”

Mrs Jewell said: “It’s been taken out of the private section but essentially, it’s for a decision to be made. I’ve been told by Cumberland Council to put the seat back in its original position. That’s what’s on the table now.”

Cllr Dinsdale said he would abstain from the vote because he wanted to have a discussion with the business owner first.

Cllr Ryan Taylor, who represents Hillcrest, said: “I get the chair needs to go back in somewhere. Is there any option to move it somewhere else on King Street?”

Cllr Alan Spedding, who represents Corkickle North, said: “I don’t think it should be. It should be put back in exactly the same place.”

Cllr Brian O’Kane, who represents Whitehaven Central North, said: “We have already heard that at this point the bench must remain there. We have no say in this. We are the unfortunate part of this.

“The bench has been removed. I don’t know what the bill is - £150-£200. The town council now has a bill of several hundred pounds for something that we have no control over.

“The whole thing has deteriorated so quickly because there is no dialogue between the shop owner and the local council.

“I’m appalled that somebody has taken something and said to a public body, ‘you can have it back on condition you don’t put it back’. We haven’t any choice.

“We are in a situation where there is no win. This has cost the town council money. This has cost the public by sheer selfishness of an individual.

“There is a degree of disharmony here. That disharmony would never have occurred if the person had come along to the town council and stated their intention from the word go.”

Cllr Gemma Dinsdale, who represents Mirehouse East, said: “At the minute, all it looks like is we are looking to blacklist businesses as a town council rather than supporting them. That’s not something I want to be a part of. Especially at a time when these businesses are struggling.”

Five councillors voted in favour of the bench being reinstated in its original position and that any further discussions should be between the business owner and Cumberland Council.

Four councillors abstained from the vote.