Holyrood’s parliament ponds: people still falling in

The ponds outside the Scottish Parliament continue to catch pedestrians out. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The ponds outside the Scottish Parliament continue to catch pedestrians out. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THEY were part of the original vision for Scotland’s new parliament building, doubling as an ornamental feature and a vital security measure.

But the trouble with the ponds at Holyrood is that people just keep on falling into them – despite the addition of extra concrete benches around the edges as a safety precaution.

Latest data on accidents in and around the Scottish Parliament show four separate incidents in the past year when members of the public went headlong into the water.

In each case, the accident was blamed on “lack of attention”. The official accident register shows there were no injuries as a result.

But the accidents will revive concerns about the hazard presented by the ponds, described by Holyrood architect Enric Miralles as “a pleasant background for the public, helping security as well”.

Temporary safety barriers were put up in 2006, after a spate of accidents. One elderly man got out of a taxi and walked into a pond. Another visitor suffered broken ribs after falling into one of the ponds while reading a text message and an MSP accidentally stepped back into a pond while taking a photograph.

People have a personal responsibility to keep themselves safe and not go too near the ponds.

Jim Eadie

But parliament officials accused the police of “precipitate action” in putting up the barriers. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents was called in and recommended fencing, extensive signage to warn of the hazard and an extension of the seating area. It also suggested fountains to make the ponds more obvious and draining the ponds in winter.

Architects rejected the fencing plan as “excessive” and proposed either extending the existing concrete benches or installing a new glass balustrade.

There were also calls for the ponds to be turned into a sunken garden or removed altogether to create a dropping-off point for taxis and a better bus stop.

In the end, new concrete benches were added to the existing ones around some of the pond edges in 2009 as part of a £1.5 million programme to boost security which also included new concrete bollards in front of the parliament.

Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie said he thought the parliamentary authorities had done their bit to minimise the risk.

He said: “People have a personal responsibility to keep themselves safe and not go too near the ponds.

“The parliament should take all reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of the public, but there are limits to what you can do.”

A parliament spokeswoman said: “Health and safety is a priority for the Parliament and we aim to provide a safe environment for all occupiers and visitors.”

SEE ALSO: Hawks face axe in battle to scare off pigeons at Holyrood

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com