Water Turn Off (2)

Continuing the Phantom Tour of Greenwich’s most rubbish fountains. Unlike our first useless water feature this one does actually look pretty good when it’s going. I like the raised feel to it, that makes it look like the water’s really luxurious, when really it’s just a few centimetres deep.

It was turned on briefly during the Olympics last year, but apart from that it’s become a ghastly eyesore – not only permanently empty but with the usual council solution of a load of wire railings clumped round it, making it look like a building site, which I guess it sort of is.

Not a brilliant entranceway to the Emirates Airline, especially given my other pet hate round there – the car park, which visitors to said cable car have to either run the guantlet of or tramp round the outside. Why they couldn’t have put the car park further in and allowed visitors a clear path across, say, nice grass is beyond me.

But the thing’s never turned on now the latest surrounding offices have been sold, David Beckham’s moved on and they don’t need it to look smart any more. In fact I don’t actually have a photo of it gushing water, much as I liked it, with its little system of higher and lower jets.

If the story is to be believed it was those jets that did for it – them and the very shallow water, which proved too tempting for parents with toddlers who used to lift them up so they could play among the water spouts, at the same time stamping all over the mechanisms and breaking them. It didn’t matter how many notices went up, they were ignored. In the end those spouts were broken just once too often.

This was the reply when I wrote to the council to ask why it was never switched on and I can believe it. I can believe too that there just isn’t the cash to turn on a fountain in these cash-strapped days.

Which is leading me to a rather worrying thought. If we can’t afford to run fountains in the long term, is there any point in actually building them in the first place? I adore water features as much as the next Phantom but I don’t adore empty concrete basins, wire fences and the council equivalent of police tape.

Here’s a radical idea (well, not that radical, I’ve mentioned it before, in conjuction with the under-pavement lights that used to run along the edge of Eastney Street).

When a new feature that is going to need maintenance is built – special lighting, water features, high-maintenance flower beds etc. in the budget, alongside the build-cost, the entity building it should HAVE to put a sum set aside, RING-FENCED, to keep the feature maintained. If it’s a 106, that should be part of the initial deal, rather than allowing the contractor to build something that’s effectively unusuable.

This isn’t just a council thing of course – the number of times I’ve seen new-builds go up that look incredible while they’re selling the apartments, all fancy flower beds and intricate Art, but go to wrack and ruin after they’ve sold the units. Then you’ve got the fabulous mosaics, along the Thames Path, and especially the amazing Rathmore Benches which had exactly the same problem – beautifully built, no cash put aside at the outset for upkeep.

It seems more expensive at the beginning, but if the thing is going to be rubbish after a few years (or months, in some cases) I’d rather not have a fancy water feature in the first place – please – stick some nice low-maintenance shrubs or something in there and just be honest about it…

the attachments to this post:

water turn off 2
water turn off 2

water turn off 1
water turn off 1

4 Comments to “Water Turn Off (2)”

  1. Steve says:

    I would have thought that, after the Princess Diana Memorial fountain debacle, that designers and planners would realise that children are going to want to splash around in the water if you build a water feature that’s accessible to them. So, I’d add another rule – don’t build it and make it accessible to children if you don’t think it’ll be safe for children to play in it.

    We were at the water feature in General Gordon Square yesterday and the kids play happily in that. Let’s hope it stays that way and doesn’t get fenced off (or – like the Maritime Museum – suffer from “no playing in the water” signs).

  2. Mary says:

    I can check the fountain out but I am pretty sure it is owned and maintained by the GLA

  3. Mary says:

    Yes – I have a note back from the GLA site manager. He confirms that it is owned and maintained by the Greater London Authority and not Greenwich Council. He says that they are waiting for difficult-to-source replacement parts and he also points out that it pre-dates the Diana fountain.
    However – having said all that I am very aware that developers and other bodies often put ‘features’ in and then go off leaving them to be maintained at public expense – and they may be badly installed or use equipment which can’t be replaced easily. This is something I could go on about for hours, actually – and its not just fountains.