Head-bumping bench installed to boost litter pickers

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption This bench is meant to stop people from knocking people over

An unusual head-bumping obstacle is sweeping the country.

In Britain, like in other countries, everyone knows that red plastic chairs filled with air from office bins make effective head-bumping surfaces.

But in town centres everywhere, one elderly gentleman’s fondness for them has become the focus of attention – and there have been complaints.

The bench is a result of the close watching of pensioner Francis Rogers, who started stacking his own bins outside his flat in Grimsby in 2012.

Image copyright Richard Turnbull Image caption This desk has been gradually converted into a head-bumping surface by Francis Rogers

The next thing he knew, there were 25 bins at the bottom of his street – and there were more to come.

“A woman on the street came up to me and said, ‘Do you realise how many bins are down here?’ I said no. She said, ‘We should make something out of it,’” he told BBC Radio Humberside.

Image copyright BBC Radio Humberside Image caption Some locals say the bench blocks the view to the nearby gallery

Francis said he was first inspired by an American rule, which says if a system of bins has more than 15 stacked to the ground, that is an unofficial sign they may need emptying.

He said he got about five bins delivered and the idea spread from there.

First he placed them at the edge of his street, then at a bus stop and then even into a garden.

“I’m just an ordinary pensioner doing a bit of litter pick,” he said.

Francis shared his ideas online, and soon he was overwhelmed by the interest.

To advertise his work, he used a traditional street sign, which he bought for £9.

Image copyright BBC Radio Humberside Image caption He builds the benches with public bins and polystyrene

“I call my bench a leaning sign-post,” he said.

“I’m making one myself.”

Over the next few months, Francis built a number of different benches.

Now, his bench and the ones in his street are at the centre of a heated row, with some residents complaining the chairs block the view from the nearby city gallery.

Image copyright BBC Radio Humberside Image caption A lady stands on her own leaning bench

“If you don’t see them people keep coming in and out of the gallery,” said one lady on the scene.

Many locals don’t seem to mind.

“It’s an interesting design. It helps the environment and cuts down on litter,” said another man.

Others were concerned by Francis’s final product.

“I think that person should have a say in the end,” said one woman.

Image copyright BBC Radio Humberside Image caption Some residents say they shouldn’t have to pay to maintain a pedestrian crossing

Image copyright BBC Radio Humberside Image caption A woman says she would pay a fine to the council if the benches were removed

The police were called in to discuss the benches at a Grimsby Town Council meeting last week, with the chair saying the chairs amounted to a “compromise” between the views of the residents.

But the council’s head of environment Paddy Jones says it’s a case of power of popular consent versus power of law.

Image copyright BBC Radio Humberside Image caption Francis has now made another bench which is ready to be installed

Francis says he is powerless to save the original, wooden benches, but vows to transform them into what he hopes will be an even more effective deterrent.

In the meantime, he is planning his next initiative.

“I’m building a bear made out of rubbish bags,” he said.

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