THREE of the individual seats installed in Richmond Hill, Bournemouth, and quickly labelled the town's 'most expensive public benches' have disappeared.

Just one of the seats is still standing, four years after they were bought and installed at a cost of some £4,427.40.

Street furniture suppliers sell basic benches for around £200.

Council officials say they believe the seats were damaged by a vehicle.

It is understood each of the missing benches will be replaced.

Stuart Best, street services manager for BCP Council, said: “Some seating in Richmond Hill has been removed due to damage, likely to have been caused by a large vehicle.

"BCP Council is now reviewing future seating options in both Richmond Hill and the wider town centre area.”

The four individual seats were installed on Richmond Hill as part of the £384,000 Three Towns Travel scheme to improve the route into the town centre.

At the time, officials from the council said the work would "revitalise the area and create a more vibrant welcome to the town centre".

The hefty price tag attached to the benches included all aspects of supply and installation, including a large concrete foundation hidden beneath the footway surfacing, the council said.

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "It's surprising to hear these benches cost so much more than the market rate.

"Yet what is more concerning is that Bournemouth Council clearly installed these at great cost to the taxpayer without appropriately considering the suitability of the location.

"Residents will hope that the council learn from this and spend taxpayers' money more appropriately in the future."