Lawmakers of Great Britain criticize Princess Diana memorial fountain

British lawmakers on Tuesday criticized a problem-plagued Princess Diana memorial fountain for poor management and uncontrolled costs that have gone 2 million pounds higher than projected.

"This so-called water feature will literally be a drain on the resources of the Royal Parks agency for years to come," said Conservative legislator Edward Leigh, chairman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.

The committee, which scrutinizes public spending, criticized "basic project management failures" that have driven the cost of the fountain in London 's Hyde Park to 5.2 million pounds, from an original budget of 3 million pounds.

The lawmakers said there had been poor coordination among the government, charity and private-sector organizations involved.

"The project to build the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain was poorly managed and the costs have run out of control," the committee said.

The elliptical granite fountain was designed by U.S. architect Kathryn Gustafson to be a "tranquil, peaceful and calm" memorial to Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2004 in a ceremony costing 300,000 pounds but shut to the public the next day after flooding. It reopened, but was closed again later that month after several people slipped on its slick granite surface while wading.

The fountain reopened in May 2005 after four months of renovation work, with the addition of new turf, better drainage, a staff of wardens and signs discouraging wading.

The committee said the annual maintenance bill was more than double the original estimate.

Leigh said the parks authority "has been saddled with an annual bill of a quarter of a million pounds, to maintain the ill-conceived and ill-executed memorial fountain for Diana, Princess of Wales."

"This is a typical example of the great and good airily embarking on a prestige project which will take away money badly needed for the upkeep of national recreational facilities enjoyed by millions," he said.

The legislators said they hoped organizers would learn lessons from the fountain fiasco when building a planned monument to the late Queen Mother Elizabeth.

"The use of water in designs for the memorial has been discouraged," the committee noted. "This seems sensible."

The government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport acknowledged "teething problems," due largely to the fountain's popularity. In the first few days, it was visited by 5,000 people an hour.

"However, these problems have been resolved fully and the fountain is now operating smoothly," a department statement said.

There was no rush of visitors Tuesday, just a handful of joggers and walkers stopping by to have a look.

"Now that I'm here, I think it's very lovely," said Staci Eisler, 34, visiting London from San Francisco . "Looking at the water, the texture, I think it's fitting."

But John Fitzpatrick, from Nottingham in central England , thought the gentle fountain failed to capture Diana's bubbling spirit.

"She was spectacular," said Fitzpatrick. 66. "This is not spectacular", reports tha AP.


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