Diana fountain may have to close permanently, warns designer

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The Independent Online

An award-winning designer predicted yesterday that the problem-plagued Diana Memorial Fountain will have to close permanently in six months.

An award-winning designer predicted yesterday that the problem-plagued Diana Memorial Fountain will have to close permanently in six months.

Rory Coonan, former head of architecture at the Arts Council of Great Britain, said the latest measures to improve the safety of the memorial fountain in London's Hyde Park were "a sticking plaster on a poor design".

Mr Coonan, designer of Birmingham's Victoria Square Fountain which was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales a decade ago, made his comments after the water was turned back on at the £3.6m feature. It was also announced yesterday the fountain will be reopened to the public next Friday. People will not be allowed to paddle in the water but they will be able to dangle their feet and hands.

Mr Coonan said: "The problem with the Diana design is that its dangers are not apparent to the user.

"It is compounded by the failure to anticipate swift algae build-up on stone. Even if the stone is cleaned, algae can re-grow within 48 hours.

"This is one slippery fountain and I predict it will shut permanently in six months."

Mr Coonan, a senior assessor in Royal Institute of British Architects competitions, also said the fountain was too expansive for parents to be able to monitor their children.

The fountain was opened by the Queen on 6 July but closed less than three weeks later after a catalogue of problems including flooding, a broken pump and at least three people falling over on the slippery granite floor.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport defended the fountain and the new measures in place to ensure people's safety. The spokesman said: "We think that the fountain is a quality example of landscape architecture, constructed by experienced stonemasons and builders. We feel the measures put in place will ensure it is still an enjoyable and safe place."

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