Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Romans delay Diana memorial

Romans delay Diana memorial | Mail Online
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-175052/Romans-delay-Diana-memorial.html

By ROSS LYDALL, Daily Mail

It was proposed as a fitting memorial to the "People's Princess" but was immediately blighted by delays and petty in-fighting.

First, plans for the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park were hit by bitter rows over cost and design. Then squabbling among memorial committee members stalled the decision-making process for months until the Government stepped in.

And when a choice was finally made - Kathryn Gustafson's "moat without a castle" - it led to more controversy. The American designer had been chosen over English sculptor-Anish Kapoor, and the "moat" was not strictly a fountain.

Now the project is under threat yet again, this time by ancient Romans.

Evidence that a Roman settlement lay on the site has forced architects Gustafson Porter to move the moat 80m east from its original position. The ancient remains are regarded by English Heritage as "significant". A spokesman said they date back almost 2,000 years and indicate that there was once a large farm on the present-day park.

"This discovery is important for understanding the history and development of Roman London,î said a report from planning consultants Ove Arup.

But no sooner had Gustafson Porter moved east, to an area where they did not believe "any archaeology will exist", than they uncovered a hoard of pottery dating from the 12th or 13th century. A team of workmen found the pottery while checking the site for Roman, prehistoric, Anglo-Saxon and medieval activity.

While these finds are not considered significant enough to force a second move, any new discoveries will change plans again.

Workmen are also checking for artefacts from the 1851 Great Exhibition, as the "crystal palace" that housed the event was nearby.

The £3 million memorial to Princess Diana was approved by Westminster council two months ago. But work has yet to start in earnest. Measuring 50m by 81m, the moat will be made of stone and will follow the contours of the park. It will be shallow enough for children to paddle in and will be illuminated at night.

Construction work on the memorial is not set to start until July and will not be completed until next summer, a year later than planned.

A spokesman for the Diana Memorial Fountain committee denied that the project was facing further delays as a result of the new discoveries.

He said that construction would definitely begin in July: "We expect to finish this work in the next two to three weeks. That fits our original timetable."

Additional reporting by Joel Cooper