‘HAPPY to chat’ benches are set to be introduced in Knutsford in a bid to help combat loneliness.

Across the country communities have created such benches, which are fitted with a plaque that denotes it as a ‘happy to chat’ bench.

The presumption is that if someone is sat there they would welcome strangers stopping by to say hello and engage in conversation.

Knutsford Town Council’s environment committee agreed on Monday to introduce ‘happy to chat’ benches outside Ash Court, King Edward Road, at Wallwood, Paradise Green, Bexton Road, Booths garden, St John’s Church, The Courthouse garden, the library garden and the Heath.

Benches would be fitted with a plaque designating them as ‘happy to chat’ benches, and the plaques would cost £85.

James Power said Knutsford was known for the friendliness of its residents, and the bench scheme was a ‘really significant and potentially very helpful’ project, with a very low cost.

Cllr Stewart Gardiner said people should be encouraged to communicate because loneliness was bad for everybody’s health, while Cllr Andrew Malloy said the benches should be in relatively well-populated areas.

Town clerk Adam Keppel-Green said: “Loneliness has been demonstrated to be as detrimental to health as smoking and worse than obesity.

“Nationally loneliness is an increasing problem for older people, with half a million older people going over five days without seeing or speaking to anyone.

“While higher percentages of older women report loneliness compared to men, a greater number of older men report more severe levels of social isolation.”