Protest at lake project's opening
A BLUSTERY wind, unseasonably cold weather and a small demonstration put the dampers on the launch of Maldon's new ornamental lake.Councillors, other dignitaries and local people gathered at the town's promenade to celebrate the opening of the water feature yesterday lunchtime.
By Sharon Asplin
A BLUSTERY wind, unseasonably cold weather and a small demonstration put the dampers on the launch of Maldon's new ornamental lake.
Councillors, other dignitaries and local people gathered at the town's promenade to celebrate the opening of the water feature yesterday lunchtime.
But they were met by wintry conditions and a group of poster-bearing protestors objecting to the new status of the lake, which used to be open to swimmers but where bathing is no longer allowed.
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In August 2002, a man was killed when he jumped into the water and hit his head on a submerged post in the facility, which was then known as the Marine Lake, in Promenade Park.
As a result, Maldon District Council, which owns the lake, was ordered to pay £200,000 in fines and legal costs in a health and safety prosecution.
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After the incident, swimming was banned and, in a move unpopular with many, last year the council voted to turn the water feature into a non-bathing ornamental lake with play area nearby.
Members had been advised by health and safety experts and council officers that meeting the stringent regulations needed for public swimming would be prohibitively expensive.
Yesterday, after declaring the ornamental lake open and switching on its new fountains, Maldon District Council chairman Rodney Bass said he believed the feature - plus other work being conducted in the park - would be a great attraction for visitors.
“We are investing £2.5million into this whole facility here in Maldon. This is the first phase,” he said.
“I think what we have achieved here is aesthetically good and has preserved the vista of the lake.”
Mr Bass added that despite the protests, it was not possible to allow swimming there.
“The council attempted to fight a legal action and a jury convicted the council of neglect and failing in its duty.
“That is what has killed the idea of an informal lake and paddling pool. The park has had to change to accommodate the needs of the 21st Century.”
But Bob Wyness, chairman of the Swim At The Prom Committee, who demonstrated yesterday, claimed that his group still had a good chance of returning bathing to the promenade lake.
“We have had some very good meetings with the council's chief executive officer.
“We have provided him with a raft of evidence saying people can swim on a 'swim at your own risk' basis without costing the council very much at all.”