Henry’s headlines over park bench
CRAWLEY MP Henry Smith has made national news following a misunderstanding about the placement of a park bench.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday (September 6), Henry told his fellow MPs that a health and safety missive had been issued banning the installation of benches under tress in Crawley and called for a debate on “over-zealous health and safety regulation”.
Hansard, which transcribes of all Parliamentary debates recorded Henry as asking Andrew Lansley, leader of the House of Commons: “Will he consider arranging a debate on over-zealous health and safety regulation? Apparently my local authority, Crawley Borough Council, has been told to remove all park benches that are under trees.”
Henry later announced that the issue has been passed on to the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills to investigate.
The story was quickly picked up by several national news organisations but Crawley Borough Council was left baffled, as no such banning instruction had been made by it or the Health and Safety Executive.
Henry took up the issue of the park benches after the Pound Hill North Residents’ Association were refused permission to install a circular bench around one of the trees in Worth Park. But the council insisted that the refusal was on grounds of style and not of health and safety.
A spokesman said: “Part of a conversation from an internal meeting was miscommunicated and reported in a Residents’ Association newsletter following a request for a circular bench to be placed around a tree in one of our parks.
“The request was rejected as the style of the bench was not suitable for the park, which is undergoing restoration to take it back to its former Victorian glory.
“It was also felt that the tree could grow and break a bench which encased the trunk, and one of the officers had also seen an article some time ago which recommended caution about placing benches under trees.”
A Health and Safety Executive spokeswoman said: “The Health and Safety Executive did not advise Crawley Borough Council to remove benches from under trees.
“Their plans for benches were rebuffed mainly for style reasons and had nothing to do with health and safety.”
Speaking to the Observer, Henry said his call for a debate was meant to raise awareness of the culture of using health and safety regulations as an excuse not to do things.
He said: “I suspected there was no such directive from the HSE. They’ve done some daft things in their time but that would really be going beyond the pale. I do think there’s an issue here that there’s almost a culture of health and safety being used as an excuse.
“The public are fed up with it and it’s unfair on the HSE because they are often the butt of criticism.”
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Friday 24 May 2013
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