Published: 10 September, 2010
by PETER GRUNER
AN ornate 30 foot “Walt Disney”-style arch overlooking an entrance to the Regent’s Canal, at the Angel, has been taken down this week, only days after it was erected.
The removal of the arch at the £200,000 access development at Danbury Street followed complaints that it was out of character with the historical heritage of the area and that British Waterways had no planning permission to erect it in the first place.
The water authority said that it decided to remove the controversial silver arch from the entrance to the tow-path after just one week because there had been insufficient consultation.
The decision comes amid complaints that a new ramp at the same spot, paid for by Transport for London, will put people pushing buggies and prams into potential conflict with cyclists.
The tow-path along the Regent’s Canal, one of the few picturesque open spaces in the borough, has become hazardous for pedestrians because of an increasing number of commuting cyclists.
The sloping access from Danbury Bridge, which replaces an original ramp, was meant to separate walkers from cyclists.
But the steps that have been provided for walkers – which are not yet open – mean that people with buggies and those in wheelchairs still have to use the cycle access, which it is feared could lead to accidents.
Del Brenner, chairman of the Regent’s Canal Network and a member of the Mayor’s Thames and Waterways Steering Group, said the entire scheme had been a British Waterways “folly on a grand scale”.
“Rather than reduce conflict it will increase it”, he said. “It seems that British Waterways can’t be trusted to deal competently with projects like this.
“We’re pleased that the arch has been removed. It was quite decorative but it looked totally out of place on a 19th century canal bridge.”
Howard Piper, a local resident, said he was furious that there had been no local consultation about the scheme. He added: “They’ve knocked down trees and disrupted the neighbourhood for almost four months.
“All they’ve done is provide a narrower ramp for the cyclists and 17 steps down for walkers. The scheme is a waste of money and entirely unnecessary. All they needed to do was put in kissing gates which ensure that cyclists have to dismount. “
St Peter’s ward Labour Councillor Martin Klute, a cyclist himself, is appalled that there has been no consultation about the arch.
“If British Waterways had only listened to what local people wanted , they might have understood what was needed,” he said.
Another resident, Jay Hornsby, said she was “sad” that the tow-path was now out of bounds for walkers during peak commuting times. “It used to be like ambling in the countryside but now you need your wits about you.”
Not everyone was against the scheme, however.
Amy Glanville, a mother of three young children, could not understand what the fuss was about.
“Cyclists and walkers have to live together,” she said. “Most cyclists are polite. As for the arch, I think it was rather nice.”
Jon Guest, British Waterways’ waterway manager said: “We have decided to temporarily remove the arch whilst we undertake better and wider consultation with canal users, local residents and the council about the best place for it to be positioned.
“Artistic pieces always create debate, after all art is in the eye of the beholder.”