A few points about memorial benches

Patricia Lion-Cachet, Fish Hoek

The beautifully built stone benches on Jager’s Walk do not encroach on the walkway. In fact, there are many natural rocks that jut out far more than the benches (“City puts freeze on memorial benches,” Echo October 7).

They certainly enhance the walkway with their beautifully worded and compiled plaques. They are attractive to look at, provide a place for people to sit and look at the sea, bearing in mind that Fish Hoek has many elderly people living there. The plaques are on their way to becoming a sort of tourist attraction – a distinctive feature of Fish Hoek and should be encouraged not stopped. Walking the catwalk every morning, it is surprising how many people are seen stopping and reading the plaques with interest.

They are certainly far better than the chipped, dilapidated painted benches. The tiny plaques on the painted benches are broken, faded and impossible to read.

I paid for a bench to be made in memory of my husband, known as the Bird Man of Fish Hoek, and had to go through the council to meet with an official to choose a site that had to be approved. At no stage, was I told that there was a policy regarding the erection of the bench nor the size of the plaque.

The bench cost R6000 to erect and the plaque another R2000, and the council cannot come at this late stage, after the benches are erected, and want to remove plaques. In any case, I cannot believe that anyone would pay that amount of money and then be told what inscription can be put on the plaque. The point of the plaque is that it is individual to that person in whose memory the bench is erected.

If the council is now wanting to change the policy, then they should have a public participation process to gather the views of the residents of Fish Hoek.

To suggest that the plaques should be made of gold, silver or bronze is totally impractical, especially if one looks at the bad state of those plaques that are there. They are evidence of this.

• Ward councillor Aimee Kuhl responds:

The local sub-council in the far south asked the City’s coastal management branch to assist with an approach to deal with the numerous requests for the installation of memorial benches along the coastline, as well as public complaints that bench plaques were starting to resemble “headstones”.

Of concern to some residents is that the walkway in Fish Hoek is being turned into a memorial walk, while this is a recreational space.

There is limited space for walkways and some of these benches take up space meant for pedestrians.

The demand for memorial benches has reached a point where there is very little if any space left for new benches. The question then must be asked: who is allowed and has the right to have a memorial bench installed, and who does not, given the limited space and the demand for these benches?

According to the new guidelines, approved by the sub-council, the plaques must not exceed the original dimensions of 80mm by 65mm by 1,5mm; benches will be allocated if there is space for one on the bench plan for the coastal precinct; approval must be in writing; the applicant must comply with the specifications, cover the costs and maintain the bench; plaques may only say, “This public bench was kindly donated by the ’Jones’ family in memory of their loved ones”; memorial benches or plaques installed without formal permission will be removed without consultation; and current benches will be removed once they are no longer functional.