Council claims world’s first ‘selfie bench’ to hide blunder

A pair of benches in Porthcawl with their backs to one of the most scenic views in Wales have been christened Britain’s first dedicated ‘selfie benches’ by tourism officials, after the local council came under heavy criticism for ignoring the coastal vista for a pavement.

Bridgend County officials baffled locals with the recent “daft” placement of the benches that face the promenade and Seabank Hotel, rather than the picturesque Welsh seaside, from where, on a clear day, visitors are said to be able to enjoy uninterrupted views of the coast of Somerset and Devon across the Bristol Channel.

“It’s just daft isn’t it,” said Porthcawl mayor David Newton-Williams, reported WalesOnline


The pavement view from the bench in Porthcawl

Credit:
Peter Bolter

“Everybody’s having a bit of fun with it, but it’s a bit stupid,” he said.

In an effort, to save face, the Bridgend Tourism Association has since declared the seats the UK’s first “selfie benches”.

“We are inviting anyone visiting Porthcawl’s esplanade to take their own bench selfie and share it on social media using the hashtag #SelfieBench” said Hugh Murray, a director at the Bridgend Tourism Association.


Visitors taking a selfie from the Porthcawl bench

Credit:
Peter Bolter

The two benches were installed earlier this year following a request from members of Porthcawl Shout in 2009 to replace the original poorly-conditioned seats. The elderly voluntary group had asked that the benches face the road to offer an alternative view for pedestrians, according to a spokesperson for Bridgend County Borough Council.

But Gary Victor, chairman of Porthcawl Shout, said: “This is totally refuted by Porthcawl Shout.”


Visitors taking in the back sea view from the bench

Credit:
Peter Bolter

He argued that the group had campaigned for the refurbishment of the two century-old Victorian design benches but “had nothing to do with the siting of the benches”.

“They [the council] decided that was where they were going to be put,” he added.

The counterintuitive positioning of the seafront benches might have made sense previously, when a hedge was in place behind the benches, blocking the sea views, but the council should have thought “one step ahead” to its removal, Mr Victor said.


The Porthcawl beach

Credit:
Fotolia/AP

“The hedge behind the seats has since been removed, but there currently are no plans to change the direction in which these seats are pointed,” a spokesperson for the county said.

“The pair of benches, which face Porthcawl’s busy esplanade and not the stunning coastline, have caused some confusion in the press with many quick to point fingers at a council mishap,” the Bridgend Tourism Association said in a statement.

“It has since been claimed, however, that whilst one will be turned, the other could be a blessing in disguise, catering for an influx of social media savvy travellers,” it said.


A bench at Pink Bay, Porthcawl

Credit:
Peter Bolter

The latest dispute in the seaside town follows another controversial bench scandal back in 2014 when railings were built over a bench at Pink Bay, making it nearly impossible to sit on it.

“The positioning of this safety rail obviously looks unusual, but it was to try and stop people from sitting on the bench, and walking in front of it too, as this is an area of the path that is particularly unstable and likely to collapse, causing further damage,” a spokesperson for Bridgend Council said at the time.

Bridgend County, which last year hosted the television series The Only Way is Essex for a one-off Wales based special, has seen a surge in interest following the show.
 

Article source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/wales/articles/the-worlds-first-selfie-bench/