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Safety barrier could be built along Archway Bridge in a bid to halt suicides

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 April 2012

Archway Bridge

Archway Bridge

Polly Hancock

Large anti-suicide barriers modelled on technology used at Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol could be installed at a notorious Highgate bridge.

The drastic move is being considered following a spate of tragic deaths from Archway Bridge last year, which provoked a community outcry and a campaign for the bridge to be made safer.

Transport for London held a meeting with Haringey Council shortly before Easter to develop viable plans to increase the height of the existing spiked barrier around the Grade II listed bridge, although no definite design has yet been discussed.

Campaigners have welcomed the move, which represents a significant milestone after Haringey Council last year threw out proposals to build a net underneath the bridge to catch jumpers.

Robert Dearman, a Hampstead-based architect who developed the Clifton Suspension Bridge barrier, which has helped to halve suicides there, likened an unprotected bridge to an unloaded gun.

He said: “Places like Archway Bridge and Clifton Suspension Bridge are very much a drawing point. If you take away the place of access it will be a lot more difficult for people to jump, and probably save lives.”

He added: “If everybody in their homes had a loaded revolver suicide rates would be higher. It is a quick way at the time when you are most vulnerable.”

At the meeting TfL bosses are believed to have pledged to co-fund the project if Haringey Council develops viable plans.

Paul Murphy, the father of a woman bereaved when her long term partner plunged to his death from Archway Bridge in October 2010, said Haringey Council had been “shamed into action”.

He said: “It is so important to tighten safety, otherwise it will still represent an opportunity for desperate people who want to end their lives.

“If the bridge is left unaltered more lives will be lost. Maybe Haringey Council has been shamed into action.”

His daughter’s partner, David ‘Sid’ Bennett, was one of three men who fell to their deaths from the 60ft structure in October 2010.

In the most recent death from the bridge, a coroner last week ruled world-renowned professor of neuroscience Jon Driver, based at University College London, killed himself by jumping off the 60ft structure last November

Sarah Cope, who has collected more than 700 signatures on a petition calling on the council to improve the bridge’s safety, said: “This is a major hurdle we have overcome. We simply cannot sit by while people are killing themselves.”

A TfL spokesman said: “We are looking to part fund any improvement, but it is too early to put a figure on it.”

A council spokesman said: “The council is in regular contact with partner organisations and the voluntary sector about Archway Bridge. No decision has been made about any potential modifications to the structure of the bridge or how work of this kind could be paid for.”

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