Diana Fountain May Be Sinking

It may be London's most controversial monument, and now, the Princess Diana memorial fountain finds itself at the center of a new storm.

It all began Thursday evening when Bob Monroe -- a former consultant with Cirencester Civil Engineering, the firm that makes regular repairs to the fountain -- gave an interview to the British tabloid The Sun saying that the monument was so badly built that it was now sinking.

Monroe termed the fountain, which cost more than $7 million to construct, "a disaster".

"Hundreds of liters are leaking away every day, and as a result it's causing subsidence and making the paths rise up and buckle. The only way to fix the problem is to pull it all down and start again. Otherwise it will continue to fall apart," he warned.

A visit to the fountain, which receives 800,000 visitors annually, revealed that public interest in the princess and her memorial remains high, with many refusing to believe that the fountain could be sinking less than four years after it was opened by the queen.

"I just don't believe it," Norwegian tourist Jan Ole Berntsen told ABC News. "It doesn't look like it's sinking."

"If it is sinking, every effort should be made to fix it," Californian Lesley Wilson said. "It obviously draws crowds even today," she said, pointing to the steady stream of visitors gathering around the fountain, even on a gray wintry morning.

A Twisted History

The fountain takes the form of an oval stone ring with water inside. Visitors were initially encouraged to paddle inside it.

But a mere 24 hours after its opening, storms caused the memorial to flood. Then the water was stopped because of blockages caused by fallen leaves.

And finally, less than a month after the monument opened, three visitors injured themselves when they slipped while paddling inside the oval ring, leading to its temporary closure.

In March 2006, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee drew attention to "basic project-management failures" in planning the memorial, calling its construction "ill-conceived and ill-executed."

Meanwhile, there were those, such as the princess's late mother, Frances Shand Kydd, who criticized the memorial on aesthetic grounds, claiming it lacked grandeur.

But none of that seemed to matter to the visitors milling around the memorial on a cold Friday morning.

"It's a lovely, quiet place," Berntsen mused. "It fits in with Diana's personality, because it's accessible, not pompous like some other monuments."

Is it Sinking?

Following Monroe's allegations, the Royal Parks, which is responsible for maintaining the fountain, issued an immediate denial.

A spokesperson from the Royal Parks insisted to ABC News that "the fountain is not sinking, subsiding or leaking hundreds of liters of water."

These views were echoed by architect Mary Bowman at the firm Gustafson Porter, which designed the fountain.

"This is complete and utter rubbish!" Bowman told ABC News in an interview.

"The fountain is not sinking," she said, adding that Monroe's claims "have no basis in fact."

But the strongest rebuttal came from Monroe's former employer, Cirencester Civil Engineering.

"Well, the fountain's still standing, isn't it?"

That was the company director, Mike Sugg's response to questions about Monroe's allegations.

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