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Cleaner stones caused Norwich memorial gardens trips, says city council

Council leaders have said cleaner stone in the revamped memorial gardens contributed to a spate of falls.

Council leaders have said cleaner stone in the revamped memorial gardens contributed to a spate of falls.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

The deputy leader of Norwich City Council has revealed that the cleaning of stones on Norwich's revamped memorial gardens was one of the reasons so many people have tripped over on the landmark.

Council bosses confirmed last month that they will have to spend £25,000 to prevent people tripping over in the gardens, just a few months after they reopened.

The public were allowed back into the gardens in March after a £2.6m revamp, but a spate of visitors, many of them older people, have fallen on the steps.

Following the falls, Norwich City Council officers concluded that the design of the steps do not meet building regulations laid out under the Disability Discrimination Act and have lodged a planning application to tackle the problem by spending £25,000 putting in black ‘nosing’ to make clear where the steps are.

At a council meeting this week, David Fairbairn, Liberal Democrat councillor for Lakenham, asked the council for an explanation on how the refurbishment happened without being compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act.

Alan Waters, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for resources, said because the memorial gardens are a listed building, it had not been possible to fully comply without causing damage to the architectural and historic character.

He said, in such situations, the listed building status takes precedence and, based on advice from English Heritage, the original designs and stones of the gardens were used, complete with the steps.

But he said: “We did not anticipate the incidents that have occurred since the gardens were reopened because, to our knowledge, there were no problems when they were open previously.

“We now acknowledge that the cleaning of the stone may have contributed to incidents since re-opening by making the stones much more uniform in colour.

“Before the refurbishment, the step nosings had been darkened by years of use, thereby drawing attention to them. Such darkening is already beginning to re-emerge and appears to be mitigating any problem.

“Nonetheless, to respond to the current problems, we have developed a possible scheme involving putting slate inserts in the nosings.”
He said that work needs listed building consent, which is why a listed building planning application has been lodged and added: “We have had discussions with English Heritage informally who are supportive of finding a solution.”

As reported in the Evening News, council officers have said that the work will be done in one small area at a time, so there will be no need to close the gardens again.

The gardens, which were originally opened by King George VI in 1938, had been closed for six years and the revamp saw every stone removed and replaced where it used to be.

One of the major changes brought about by the revamp saw the war memorial itself, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, turned around to face St Peter’s Street.

• What do you think of the revamp of the memorial gardens? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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