Antrim and Newtownabbey Council approves ‘solar’ bench for Sister City in Arizona

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is to donate a park bench to its ‘Sister City’ Gilbert in Arizona.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 5:29 pm

Gilbert Sister Cities’ Friendship Garden is being created at the new Gilbert Regional Park.

A mural in the park is to feature two Antrim and Newtownabbey landmarks – Mossley Mill in Newtownabbey and Clotworthy House in Antrim.

The legacy Newtownabbey Borough Council established the link with Gilbert in 1998.

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The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb, with Valerie Adams, chair of Antrim and Newtownabbey Loneliness Network, at the Chatty Bench at Antrim Castle Gardens.

The Gilbert Sister Cities Board had requested Antrim and Newtownabbey to consider donating an item to the park such as a bench or statue as part of the ongoing project.

At a meeting of the borough council on Monday evening, councillors approved the donation of a £2,000 ‘solar’ bench which comes complete with a mobile charging device.

Previously, Newtownabbey company Environmental Street Furniture Ltd supplied benches to the local authority in Gilbert following a trade visit to the town in 2018.

Meanwhile, a ‘Chatty Benches’ scheme to tackle loneliness in the borough is to be expanded.

The initiative by Antrim and Newtownabbey Loneliness Network encourages people to chat whilst seated on specially designated blue-painted benches.

An initial pilot carried out at Antrim Castle Mall was followed by a second bench in Antrim Castle Gardens. It is now agreed that the scheme is expanded across the borough so that there are Chatty Benches in all districts, starting with Hazelbank Park and Lilian Bland Community Park in Newtownabbey and Crumlin town centre with other locations to be confirmed.

In a statement, the Mayor, Councillor Billy Webb, said; “It’s great to see this fantastic initiative being rolled out across the borough. Loneliness can affect anyone from teenagers and young adults, new parents, carers and recently bereaved, to students, older people and those with disabilities.

“I hope the addition of these benches in more locations will go some way to addressing the issue of loneliness in the borough. If you spot someone sitting alone on these chatty benches, can I encourage you to take a seat and simply have a chat – you might be the only person they talk to that day.”

Due to the Covid pandemic, the Chatty Benches display a message reminding people to socially distance while sitting on the bench.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter


Click here to read: Sister Cities: Arizona tunes in as Antrim and Newtownabbey selects new mayor


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