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New 'Happy to Chat' bench dedicated to memory of Councillor Christine Melia

Happy to Chat bench

A 'Happy to Chat' bench designed to combat loneliness has been dedicated to the memory of late Councillor Christine Melia.

The tribute to the former representative of Bamber Bridge East can be found on one of two new benches placed on Station Road, on the stretch between the railway tracks and Church Road.

Installed in response to increased social isolation caused by Covid-19, both have a special plaque carrying the message 'sit here if you don't mind someone stopping to say hello'.

Cllr Melia, who passed away in September after a short illness, was a passionate advocate of the project through her involvement in the Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall and Walton-le-Dale Community Hub.

Cllr Paul Foster, Leader of South Ribble Borough Council and representative of Bamber Bridge West, said: "This bench will be a fitting and lasting tribute to our good friend and colleague, Cllr Christine Melia.

"Christine was incredibly passionate about helping local people and I know this initiative was one that was particularly close to her heart.

"The last 18 months has been an incredibly tough time for so many of us and, through our hard-working and dedicated Communities team, the Council has been doing what it can to help those who have really struggled with loneliness and isolation.

"As we continue to try and get back to something like normal life, these new benches are another small and simple way of connecting people.

"After all, they say that a stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet. Bamber Bridge is a fabulous community and I hope that these new benches will bring us even closer together."

There are five Community Hubs across South Ribble, all with their own budgets to deliver special projects designed to help people in their local area.

Cllr Melia proposed the installation of the benches after a number of residents contacted her to point out there was a shortage of places for people to sit in this part of Bamber Bridge.

Cllr Chris Lomax, Chair of the Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall and Walton-le-Dale Community Hub, said: "As well as giving people a place to stop and sit down, we saw an opportunity to do something a little different.

"We hope these 'Happy to Chat' benches will encourage residents to strike up conversations with each other as they watch the world go by.

"Christine was a real champion of this project and, though she is sadly no longer with us, these benches will help to keep her memory alive for many, many years to come."

Cllr Melia was elected to the ward of Bamber Bridge East in May 2019. A byelection to choose a new representative for the area is to be held on Thursday (18 November).

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