A bench in Braintree has become a Chat a While Bench to encourage residents to speak to each other in an effort to combat loneliness.

The bench located outside the Nat West bank on the High Street will aim to get people chatting after Age UK revealed that wards within Braintree were at the highest risk of loneliness.

Similar schemes have been put in place across the country as well as ‘Buddy Benches’ in schools to encourage kids to get talking to each other.

Councillor Frankie Ricci, Cabinet Member for Communities, Culture and Tourism said: “The Chat a While Bench is one of the easiest and most accessible ways for people to feel like they have a safe space to talk to others in the community and not feel so alone.

“Loneliness is a key issue for the Council, and we want to do what we can to help combat it. We really hope the people of Braintree take this under their wing and make it their own.”

The bench launched on Monday and if successful will be extended to other areas across the district such as Witham and Halstead.