£100k needed to make historic park safe

ONE of East Anglia's most treasured parks has been declared “unsafe” by health and safety experts who said more than £100,000 needed to be spent mending crumbling paths to prevent people tripping over.

Laurence Cawley

ONE of East Anglia's most treasured parks has been declared “unsafe” by health and safety experts who said more than £100,000 needed to be spent mending crumbling paths to prevent people tripping over.

Between April and August, seven members of the public were involved in accidents in the historic Abbey Gardens, in Bury St Edmunds, compared to a total of eight during the whole of last year.

One of those involved in an accident - a trip - is now taking legal action against St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which manages the gardens, as a result.


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The council has now revealed the vast majority of paths in the gardens, which attract about 500,000 people each year, have fallen into a state of disrepair and “are unsafe and form trip hazards”.

In a report written for the council's cabinet, it emerged “the most serious of these is around the Rose Garden and immediate action has been taken to address this risk”.

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The council now plans to remove the top 4cm of about 75% of the paths using a machine planer and re-lay them. Conservation body English Heritage is being consulted on the scheme, which is expected to cost £105,000 on top of the £25,000 earmarked for the Rose Garden. Each section will be repaired in turn to ensure the park stays open.

Mike Ames, chairman of Bury in Bloom, said the Rose Garden needed immediate attention but said a number of other paths had been damaged and made uneven by tree roots underneath.

“Tree roots have made the paths uneven and elsewhere the surface is eroding around the edges where it meets the grass.”

The path leading to the play area was also deteriorating, he added.

Lynsey Alexander, council cabinet member responsible for parks, said improving the paths had been in the pipeline for some time and the council was keen to bring the works forward.

“We want to keep it the way it is and not fall into disrepair. It is such a fantastic asset for the borough and the town. We just want to make sure it is safe as a variety of people, including the very young and the elderly, use it.”

However, Ernie Broom, chairman of the Bury Over 60s Club, said he was surprised by the council's claims about the state of paths.

“I don't know what they are on about. I was there on Remembrance Day with a lot of older people, some of them with walking sticks. I'm sure we would have noticed it if there was a problem.”

“IF they are going to get this sorted out then it has to be encouraged.”

That's the view of Mike Ames, Bury in Bloom chairman, with whom the EADT took a leisurely stroll around the Abbey Gardens to find out more about the current state of the footpaths.

Mr Ames said he was particularly concerned about the state of the stone slab walkway in the Rose Garden, where the surface dips and rises by as much as 3cm in areas.

He said he was delighted to hear the Rose Garden would be targeted first by the council.

“They just haven't had the money to do this,” Mr Ames said. “And if they don't have the resources then it doesn't get done. Things like this have to be a rolling programme.”

Back on the main paths, Mr Ames pointed out the general unevenness of the garden paths, which combine puddle-filled dips and cracked mounds, made by underlying tree roots.

“Uneven paths need to be dealt with as they can be dangerous to people in wheelchairs, the elderly with walking sticks or frames or just young children not looking where they are going,” Mr Ames said.

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