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Analysis: Is it important what Archway Bridge anti-suicide measures look like?

PUBLISHED: 11:45 26 January 2015 | UPDATED: 18:00 26 January 2015

A mock-up drawing of what the safety measures might look like

A mock-up drawing of what the safety measures might look like

Archant

It is the iconic gateway into Highgate, but the beauty of Archway Bridge is tainted by the deaths of the many who have fallen from its parapets.

"It’s taken so long and so many people have died since the bridge was erected, so does it really matter what it looks like, as long as somebody can be saved?”"

Ceidre Hayward, mother of victim

For the families of those who have lost their lives there, the proposed installation of long-awaited anti-suicide measures cannot come soon enough.

However, safety campaigners have become locked in a row over the plans with conservationists critical of proposed designs.

They do not believe the measures have been thoroughly tested and are warning Transport for London (TfL), who lodged the plans at Haringey Council, not to rush the measures through.

Campaigners say it is better to push through imperfect safety measures than to risk lives by going back to the drawing board.

Ceidre Hayward, the mother of 33-year-old Jonathan Culverwell-Landsberg, who took his own life at the Victorian bridge in June 2013, said: “It’s taken so long and so many people have died since the bridge was erected, so does it really matter what it looks like, as long as somebody can be saved?”

Mrs Hayward, of Rowlands Close, Highgate, added: “I’m just aghast that it took this long and more people were to die before something was done.”

If plans are approved, a 2.5m high stainless steel fence would be erected on each side of the bridge.

Poles would link a series of thin metal cables, invisible from a distance, to prevent anyone being able to jump from the structure.

The measures are similar to those in place at the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which has seen the number of suicides there drop by half.

Since 2010, at least seven people have fallen to their deaths at the bridge, and for five years the Hornsey Lane Bridge Anti-Suicide Campaign group has been fighting to have safety measures installed.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, of Highgate Village, said the measures need to put in place as quickly as possible.

She said: “What do people want to preserve? Fundamentally as human beings, we should be preserving life and not buildings.”

Conservationists believe the proposed measures, which have been likened to the fences surrounding Auschwitz, would damage the look of the Grade II-listed bridge, over Archway Road.

Michael Hammerson, vice-president of the Highgate Society, said the civic group is supportive of anti-suicide measures for the bridge, but that it is important to make sure the right ones are put in place.

He said: “It’s an old bridge and a masterpiece of Victorian engineering.

Mr Hammerson, of Highgate Village, added: “It’s a listed structure and should be protected.

“It’s perfectly possible to come up with a solution that respects the design and we’re just disappointed that they haven’t.”

Cllr Bob Hare, Lib Dem councillor for Highgate at Haringey Council, wants the fence to be thoroughly tested before it is put in place.

He suggested that TfL should build a replica and have a rock climber attempt to get over it.

“It’s all about effectiveness,” he said.

The Samaritans provide confidential emotional support to anyone in crisis, around the clock, every day of the year. You can contact the Samaritans by calling 08457 90 90 90 or visiting your local branch.

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