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Benches for streets and parks – a specifiers guide

Whether installed in the wilderness, a rural setting or the streets of village’s, towns and cities – benches are an integral part of the British outdoors.

People love nothing more than a seat at a park, a convenient place to stop during a day out shopping, or a place to take a rest from the rush and enjoy some lunch.

The way we see it, seats and benches are a great way to bring some of the convenience and luxury of the indoors to any imaginable outdoor location.

If you’ve been charged with the task of specifying street or park seating however, the sheer range of products, choices, styles and specifications can be perplexing.

To help you through the process, we have pulled together an expert guide that includes public preferences, technical help, a guide to ensuring quality and an exploration of the key considerations.

What kind of street seating and park benches does the public prefer?

It would be very simple to generalise and assume that people aren’t bothered about the nature of outdoor seating – as long as it’s comfortable. This would be a big mistake.

From feedback and analysis of our sales patterns, we can say with confidence that there are many key attributes about public seating that British people clearly prefer.

  • Wooden finish – wooden and timber models offer a natural feel that is generally preferred by citizens. Seating and benching made from timber offers the user a softer more organic perch. Beyond the general feel comes the preferred heat transfer properties of wood, which means that in cold winter months, it doesn’t provide the immediate shock of concrete, stone or stainless steel.
  • Seats with a back – the general public like to have a seat rather than a bench as it comes with the support of a back. This is understandable when you consider that many users will have been on a long walk, perhaps carrying shopping bags.
  • Rounded finish – a seat that has been ergonomically designed to provide comfort, is far more appealing to people than angular models that look and feel sharp and uncomfortable. This is a pertinent point to raise given the prominence of contemporary urban gentrification and the increased stylistic focus on sharp angles. 

How location will impact your choice of public benches and seats

With the needs of the general public now firmly in mind, your thoughts should turn to location, surrounding infrastructure and indeed the architectural aspirations of your project or installation.

Setting will play a significant role in your decision making. If you are working on a rural project such as a newly completed woodland walking trail – you are most likely to specify benches that are comfortable, resistant and traditional looking such as a cast-iron model with timber slats.

However if you are working on an urban regeneration project in a city centre with a very modern architectural vision, you might want to pick contemporary or artistic styles of seating that accentuate the signature look you are trying to create.

Most of the time, we work with customers that are procuring seating for spaces outside schools, offices or urban infrastructure locations such as stations, hospitals and airports.

Each of these buildings or spaces has a very different function and a specific set of needs. Two schools for example could have very a different educational and architectural ethos.

This means you will need to be guided by locationary and project-based considerations before deciding firmly on what kind of product you will purchase.


What kind of benches and seating are available?

Benches are available in an almost inconceivable array of styles. From simple, traditional and functional models to items that feel like works of modern art.

A good way to begin honing your search is to consider what material or combination of materials you would prefer your street seats or park benches to be made from.

  • Wooden benches – there’s a reason why timber is the most popular material for benching – it is comfortable, organic looking, resistant and cost-effective. Wooden benches are seldom constructed 100% from timber. Often timber slats are used on a concrete base or integrated into a stainless steel frame. Wooden seat tops can also be used to finish bespoke artistic concrete or stone installations. Our verdict – why mess with a winning formula? Timber benching is what the public wants, it looks good and comes in the broadest range of styles!
  • Concrete benches – concrete is a cost-effective material that is weather-proof and timeless. Its versatility means that truly unique shapes can be created giving benches a truly unique look. In most cases, concrete structures are finished with timber slatting or zinc plated steel meaning – this makes installation easier and seating more comfortable. An additional benefit of concrete seating, particularly heavier models, is their ability to separate vehicles and traffic.
  • Stainless steel benches – forged of a material with a justified reputation for being solid and reliable, our stainless steel benches carry less weight than concrete models making them easier to install. The added benefit here is that models are perhaps more vandal proof than any other finish of outdoor seating.
  • Cast iron benches – always combined with wood, cast-iron benches are reminiscent of a bygone era that remains stylistically desirable particularly in heritage areas or rural settings. Cast-iron benches are incredibly sturdy, very reliable and very popular.

With the above in mind, it is very possible that you have no preference with regards material. Therefore if your search for benches and outdoor seating is entirely guided by style – please have a browse of our street seating range.

Other things to consider when specifying benches

Having considered public preferences, locationary considerations and material finishes – what else do you need to consider? Have you missed anything?

  • Longevity – this is a key factor in your decision making process and it might come down to manufacturer assurance. We generally advise for example that any item of outdoor seating and benches will last for at least 25 years.
  • Vandal proofing – depending on the location of your project, vandal proofing might be a factor. Any of our products can be specified with vandal proof coatings.
  • Security – if you are specifying for a project such as a train station or airport terminal – the seating you require might have a different range of requirements. You may wish to discourage people from sleeping on benches or to improve the ability of CCTV to identify security threats by ensuring people can’t hide bags underneath benches. Whatever your need, off-the-shelf and bespoke solutions are available.
  • Safety – the location of benches is critical and needs to be carefully proposed. The last thing you want to do is place a bench within an area where people queue and create a risk of crowd crush.

How can I be sure the benches I specify are good quality?

With street furniture, we think it is imperative to specify product that has been manufactured in the UK.

Making this decision will mean several things. Firstly, the cost of transport into the country won’t be a component of the price you are paying. Secondly, products will be manufactured to, and comply with UK standards. Thirdly, items will generally be manufactured using high-quality materials.

The last thing you want to do is significantly reduce lifespan or have to buy product twice because it is low-quality.

Here at Townscape, we manufacture all of our outdoor seating at our Nottinghamshire factory using the very highest quality raw materials. Our timber for example is Sadolin treated meaning that it will stand the test of time.

Our street furniture and bench models have all been awarded BS EN ISO 9001:2015 certification. The accreditation is based on quality management principles which include customer focus, process approach and continual improvement.

Why buy benches and street seating with Townscape?

Townscape Products has been a leader in street furniture and seating manufacture for more than 40 years.

Our benches can be found in almost every town and city in the UK. What’s more, our buyers consistently tell us that their superior quality is immediately evident.

Take a seat and we’ll do the rest – we offer an advisory enhanced service designed to relieve the burden of decision making. We can cover off all aesthetic, access, planning and legal needs by liaising with partners leaving you fully confident that you have selected the very best benches for your project.

So if you are working on an urban regeneration, or simply need to order a new replacement bench, you have a dependable partner in us. Either select the models you need and buy them online or give us a quick call to obtain a bespoke quote 01623 513 355.


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