NEW ‘Chat Benches’ have been launched in Burnham-on-Sea and Taunton in a bid to tackle isolation and loneliness.

PCSO Tracey Grobbeler unveiled one of the new benches on Burnham’s seafront next to the Bayview Café this month and another was installed in Vivary Park in Taunton.

She said: “The Chat Bench is a very simple concept, where a sign is placed on a bench, typically in a park or a town centre, in a location used by a good cross-section of the community.

“The sign is then used to encourage those using the bench to have a chat with each other – it’s as simple as that.”

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police, said they hope the bench makes a difference to people in rural communities.

“To help us tackle loneliness and isolation in the community we have introduced a ‘Chat Bench’ in Vivary Park in Taunton and also on Burnham seafront,” the spokesman said.

“Simply stopping to say "hello" to someone at the ‘Chat Bench’ could make a huge difference to the vulnerable people in our communities and help to make life a little better for them.”

Burnham-on-Sea Coastguard praised the initiative and said they are ‘very pleased’ to see the new bench in the town.

A spokesman for the Coastguard, said: “In our role as Coastguards, we deal with many people who are battling mental health issues, they can feel isolated and unable to share what is going on, often this can be alleviated just by a simple chat.

“A simple "Hello" or "Are you OK?" can make such a difference to a person.

“They may be struggling with their mental health, loneliness, abuse or any other issues and may not always have someone to listen when they need it.

“We all face problems at some point in our lives and we don't always appreciate the luxury we have of someone listening to our problems however big or small they may be.

“But we do all have the ability to help, just by passing the time and lending an ear, no matter who you are, race, gender, sexual orientation, we are all the same and we all have our problems so next time you are sat on a bench, could be any bench in the world, just throw out a friendly hello, who knows you may just change someone's life.”