Fountains stay off: Report looks into costs and problems

The fountains in action: Alice Hurford in Cathedral Square in the rain, April 2012. Photo: Alan Storer
The fountains in action: Alice Hurford in Cathedral Square in the rain, April 2012. Photo: Alan Storer
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Peterborough politicians urge council to get fountains working as the weather turns warmer but no date has been set for their return:

Council chiefs cannot say when Peterborough’s popular fountains will be switched on and have blamed dirt from children playing in the water for blocking the system.

Bosses say that the showpiece attractions in Cathedral Square should be working this summer - but a fixed date has not been confirmed.

The fountains, which were built as part of a £12 million city centre revamp in 2010, have been off since October last year after too much dirt got into the filtration system.

This was put down to a large number of children playing in the features and people washing their feet, dogs and even mobility scooters in the gushing attractions.

The council is currently in talks with a water features firm to repair the system, with the company preparing a report which will outline the potential costs of the job.

And if the filtration system can be fixed quickly, then it is hoped that the fountains will be back on at some point this summer.

But city politicians have urged the council to get the fountains working as soon as possible as the weather starts to turn warmer.

Councillor Nazim Khan, leader of the Peterborough Labour Party, said: “To be honest it’s a joke that the fountains are still not working. A lot of money was spent on them and they have been off for far too long.

“It’s a very poor situation, the council needs to get a grip and get them right as soon as possible.

“The weather is getting warmer and people are gathering more in the city centre, it would be nice for them to have the fountains working.”

Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said: “The fountains are a unique feature to the city centre and they attract families and tourists to the area.

“It would be a great shame if they were not working when we get the warmer weather in June, July and August.

“The city council really needs to double its efforts to get them working as soon as possible for the enjoyment of people here and for visitors to the city.”

Cllr John Peach, who campaigned for the fountains to be built during his stint as council leader added: “It’s a shame they have been off for so long.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We are currently reviewing the way the Cathedral Square fountains operate in preparation for them being switched on again over the summer.

“They have become an increasingly popular feature in the city centre, particularly with children and families who enjoy playing in them in the hot weather.

“However their heavy usage meant there were a number of occasions last year when we needed to bring in cleaning specialists to clear clogged filters.

“We are therefore currently looking to see whether there are changes that can be made to the filtration and treatment process to prevent further issues in the future.”

In August last summer the fountains had to be switched off temporarily so that they could be cleaned.

The council then had to carry out a deep clean of the attraction, one more than the expected two each year, at a cost of £3,750 a time.

In 2011, the fountains cost £26,928 to operate for 270 days, working out at a cost of £99.73 per day.

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Fountains have attracted debate and controversy

Peterborough’s fountains have attracted plenty of controversy and debate since the attractions were built in 2010.

In August last summer the fountains had to be switched off temporarily so that they could be cleaned due to “over-use.”

Speaking at the time, Paul Phillipson, executive director of operations at the council said: “It is not a children’s play park. You wouldn’t design a children’s play park with York stone slabs and shiny metal for children to slip on.

“It is a visual amenity designed to look nice and be walked around.

“That’s not to say my four-year-old can’t poke his hand in as he walks past, it can cope with that. It can’t cope with people washing their dogs in it.”

That same month the council said that it had considered issuing fines to parents whose children were caught playing in the fountains.

The idea was among a raft of suggestions aimed at stopping children playing excessively at the water features.

Ideas included setting fines for overuse, creating signage to urge people to stay out of the water, employing an attendant and even putting loudspeakers on CCTV to allow operators to talk to people using the square.

Any action would have to be agreed by councillors and nothing will be done until a new filtration system has been installed.

Mr Phillipson said at the time: “There is probably a need for some sort of attendant system.

“There is a variety of anti-social behaviour in the square - there is also skate boarding, graffiti and cycling through the fountains.

“I know we have two deep cleans a year, but I don’t want to spend that £3,750 of taxpayers’ money more often than is absolutely necessary.

“We might have to put temporary signage up or displays on the floor.

“As you look your eyes are naturally drawn to the floor.

“We are also looking at cameras. We have fitted speakers to the CCTV and some of them could have voices telling people what they can’t do.

“They would be manned 24/7 and would not just be about the fountains, but any crimes.”

In April last year the fountains were also switched off after Anglian Water imposed its first hose pipe ban in the region in more than 20 years.

At the time much of East Anglian was in period of prolonged drought and the ban was imposed as a means of conserving water in the city, although the fountains recycle water it was felt that they should be switched off in the spirit of the ban.

But the ban didn’t last long as the heavens opened weeks later.