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Mid and East Antrim Council confirm return of missing ‘Chatty Bench’ aimed at reducing isolation in Ballymena

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The site of the missing bench in Sentry Hill, Ballymena. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

The site of the missing bench in Sentry Hill, Ballymena. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

The site of the missing bench in Sentry Hill, Ballymena. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

An outdoor bench belonging to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council which had gone missing in Ballymena has since been located.

The local authority had initially issued an appeal for the return of the recently installed ‘Chatty Bench’, which was located on Sentry Hill.

The Chatty Benches initiative aims to engage people in activities to minimise their sense of isolation.

After confirming it had gone missing, an update from the council and PSNI on Tuesday afternoon confirmed the bench has now been located.

"Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is pleased inform you the Chatty Bench has been located and will be returned to Sentry Hill soon,” a council spokesperson confirmed

Mid and East Antrim’s Loneliness Network launched its first Chatty Bench in May 2021 at Shaftesbury Park, Carrickfergus, and has gone on to install a further seven benches.

The ethos behind it is to encourage anyone who wants to engage in conversation with someone to sit down on the bench and just have a chat.

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There is also a plaque on the bench with a unique QR code on it, which residents can scan to access information on the Loneliness Network.

The Chatty Bench on Sentry Hill was one of the most recent to be installed before the PSNI believe it had been taken around two weeks ago.

It was installed after volunteers from Good Morning Ballymena planted hundreds of trees on the site.

Volunteers, who help look after Sentry Hill, had previously reached out to independent councillor Rodney Quigley to assist in tracking the bench down.

“Sentry Hill is a wonderful asset close to the heart of Ballymena,” he said. “It is enjoyed by many on a daily basis who use Sentry Hill for leisurely strolls and dog-walking.

“There has been a concerted effort in recent months to improve the area through tree-planting and through the sowing of wildflower meadows which will flourish in the coming weeks.

“It is disappointing to hear that a bench installed to support some of our most vulnerable residents has been taken so soon after being installed and I would urge anyone who is aware of its whereabouts to contact myself or the Council so that it can be safely returned to Sentry Hill.”


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