VANDALISM fears have prompted Ringwood Town Council to reject a plea for benches to be sited at two popular dog walking sites in the town.

A Poulner resident asked members of the town council’s recreation, leisure and open spaces committee to put benches at Forestside Gardens and on the Mount to give walkers and dog walkers an opportunity to rest, particularly older people and those with physical problems.

Chairman of the committee Brian Terry told members the bench at Poulner Lakes was proving a success, but this was in an area well suited to purpose.

He said: “Rest benches or sleepers are useful as they are relatively inexpensive and ideal for a short respite when on a walk.”

However, town clerk Terry Simpson told members that placing benches at the suggested sites could encourage antisocial behaviour and vandalism.

He said: “Forestside Gardens is a small area of mostly grass that is used predominantly as a children’s play area for the adjacent family homes.

“Based on previous experience, for example in Anson Close, putting a bench in this area might lead to inappropriate use and vandalism.

“We used to have the kick park at Forestside Gardens several years ago, which generated antisocial behaviour when youngsters used to congregate and drink alcohol.

“If you put benches in an enclosed grass area you are encouraging people to congregate and cause nuisance to neighbours.”

He added: “We understand why people, especially walkers, would like benches but we have to consider the wider consequences to the public.

“The Mount is used extensively by people walking their dogs; however similar problems could be caused by siting a bench at the bottom of the Mount.”

Members of the committee discussed the possibility of a bench at the top of the Mount.

However, Richard Frampton told members that this would have “maintenance implications”.

He said: “Extra grass strimming would be required due to the difficulty of grass cutting on the hillside.”

It was agreed that while a bench on top of the Mount might be feasible, it was not currently possible because of the lack of funds for increased maintenance.