A BENCH that is at the centre of a row between councillors and a cafe has gone missing.

The owner of Henry’s cafe, in High Street, Upton, previously called on the town council to move its bench from outside her business.

Businesswoman Elisabeth Drake said she needed to remove the bench so she could put out a table and some chairs to help boost trade.

But town councillors argued that the bench was popular with the public and had been outside the building for over 30 years.

On Friday morning residents noticed it had disappeared, with many claiming the bench had been stolen.

Locals are now referring to the episode as ‘benchgate’ and have called for the return of the item, which has been nicknamed ‘benchy’.

A spokesman for Upton Town Council said: “We don’t know where it is. It’s been stolen.

“It’s really tiresome. It’s a shame, it’s a top quality bench, it’s been there a while.

“We are still going to find out if we can place a bench in that location [outside Henry’s].

“We are hoping to get that one back.”

The spokesman added that if the council gets approval it will probably move another bench to the site.

He said: “The county council will decide if we have permission to put the bench there.”

The spokesman added that the bench is insured and was still outside the cafe at 6.30pm on Thursday night.

Ms Drake’s employee had been moving the council-owned bench to the other side of the road each morning, although someone kept returning it to its position outside Henry’s at night.

Ms Drake said: “I wouldn’t stoop to that level [stealing the bench]. I hate the fact the community think it’s my fault.

“It’s not nice to live in a town where there’s ill feeling.”

She added that she was only moving the bench so she could put a table close to her business.

The county council told her this was the only place she was allowed tables, due to safety concerns about them being further out.