Park bench dedicated to D-Day planners removed as Thurrock Council prepares to begin work on £10m council offices

A BENCH dedicated to the memory of D-Day planners has been removed from a green in Grays to avoid it being lost when the council extends its offices.

The £10million plan to expand the council offices has been hailed by the Conservative administration as the key to regenerating Grays but critics have called it a “vanity project” and urged the council to rethink.

One of many concerns is that the offices will be extended across Mulberry Square – a small park that was home to a bench which has been dedicated to the planners of D-Day.

It was also the site that prime minister Boris Johnson laid flowers in tribute to the 39 people who lost their lives in the back of a lorry last year.

In an effort to preserve some of the historic importance of the site, a group of Labour councillors had the bench relocated to Kilverts Field and held a ceremony over the weekend to rededicate the commemorative bench.

The ceremony was held on Saturday and organised by Councillors Tony Fish, Martin Kerin and Jane Pothecary in partnership with the Seabrooke Estate Residents Association.

Mr Fish said: “I’m honoured to be able to be part of this ceremony where we are remembering the sacrifice made by previous generations to preserve the freedoms we cherish today, and to mark the resting and preservation of an important and well-loved local landmark which is a symbol of that sacrifice”

Richard Suttling, chair of the Seabrooke Estate Residents Association called it a “shame” the bench had to be removed from its original location.

He said: “This bench is out in the open in Kilverts Field so that everyone can sit and think about what if the heroes of the Mulberry Landings of D-Day hadn’t done this for us? These soldiers were people of courage – they believed in the war effort and did their bit for us.”

The council was asked whether it plans to introduce a new dedication in the extended council offices but they did not respond.

Since the plans for the civic offices were revealed the authority has shown some degree of confusion over the Mulberry dedication.

When critics of the civic office place highlighted concerns about the bench, the council claimed there was “no formal record” of the dedication, despite the bench being located just outside of the existing offices.

The dedication took place in 1994 and the name of the park is believed to have come from the term used for artificial harbours that were constructed in Tilbury and used as part of the D-Day invasion.

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