Anti-suicide fences for Archway Bridge compared to Auschwitz
“Anti-suicide” measures at Archway Bridge could soon be in place following a tireless five-year campaign - but designs have been compared to the fences surrounding Auschwitz.
Safety campaigners have lauded plans lodged at Haringey Council for a high wire fence on both sides of the iconic Grade-II listed bridge in Highgate to prevent people from falling to their deaths.
However, the designs submitted by Transport for London (TfL) last month have drawn criticism from conservationists who want to protect the “unique” 19th century structure, also known as Hornsey Lane Bridge.
Since 2010, at least seven people have fallen to their deaths and for five years the Hornsey Lane Bridge Anti-Suicide Campaign group has been fighting to have safety measures installed.
Campaigner Sue Hessel said: “This is historic. Even in the early days, the bridge was associated with suicide so we’re looking at over 100 years of people having lost their lives to it.
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“If it is no longer ‘Suicide Bridge’, then we have all done something amazing to help.”
The proposals are for a 2.5m high stainless steel fence on each side of the bridge.
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Poles would link a series of thin metal cables to prevent anyone being able to jump from the structure.
Painted steel spikes would also be added onto existing anti-suicide “cages” at either end of the bridge.
The measures are similar to those put in place at the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which saw the number of suicides drop by half following their installation.
A planning report by historic building consultants Donald Insall Associates called the structure “unique” but stated that any potential harm to the architectural significance of the bridge “is worth it” to save lives.
More than 30 people have written to Haringey Council to react to the proposals, with nearly all commenting in support of the plans.
However, the Highgate Society said it was concerned the suggested measures would “ruin” the look of the bridge.
One anonymous objector compared designs to the barbed wire fences around Auschwitz, the network of Nazi concentration camps.
Vice-president Michael Hammerson said: “What they are proposing is ghastly. These are completely wrong, we want the right measures.”
He added: “We don’t want to say no to measures to prevent suicides. If there are any delays now, it’s not because of people like us, it’s because Haringey have delayed their plans for years.”
Plans for safety measures at the bridge were shelved by Haringey Council in 2005 and 2012 but campaign co-ordinator Sarah Cope said she is “cautiously optimistic” that these proposals will go ahead.
The 36-year-old journalist, of Summersby Road, Highgate, said in response to the criticism of the designs: “At the moment, it’s hard for a lot of people to see the features of the bridge because it’s so closely associated with suicide.
“I think its beauty will be more apparent.”
David Rowe, head of borough projects and programmes for surface transport at TfL, said: “There have been concerns about safety following a number of suicides at Hornsey Lane Bridge in Archway, and a local campaign was initiated for improvements to be made. “We were asked by Haringey Council for help to deliver these improvements and have submitted a plan to them for consideration.”
He added: “The measures have been designed to help save lives and have been discussed with both the local council and English Heritage prior to being submitted.
A spokesman for conservation group English Heritage said: “English Heritage recognises the significant public benefits in erecting a suicide barrier on Archway Bridge and therefore accepts the proposed development in principle.
“As the bridge is listed, English Heritage has provided advice at the pre-application stage and is currently being consulted on the proposed designs.”
It was due to submit its formal consultation response this week.