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.

Speaking to ABC News, Sugg said that Monroe was unfit to make any claims about the fountain's construction.

"He's not an engineer, he's a trainee manager with no technical qualifications," Sugg said.

"We were there to inspect the fountain and to install a drainage pipe to help water dissipate. Otherwise the water, especially in a wet year like this one, will stay still and cause trouble."

As for Monroe's claims, Sugg told ABC News that CCE's ex-employee "was on sick leave in December, for practically the whole month, after which he resigned."

"The day after his resignation, we suddenly saw his statement to the press," Sugg said.

But Monroe told ABC News that he has over 14 years experience as a drainage engineer, having worked for companies such as Robert McCalpine, one of the UK's leading construction companies specializing in civil engineering.

He says he was called in November to help when the fountain needed maintenance.

"At that time Mike (Sugg) was in Disneyland," Monroe told ABC News. "It was his idea to install a new foot and land drainage pipe to control the leaks but the pipe I was asked to install was insufficient."

The native Scotsman alleges there was a severe leak between the base of the fountain and the concrete slab it sits on.

"There was water pouring out from the joint – I would have had to have gotten underneath to fix it properly. But Mike told me to put the pipe in anyway, cover it up and keep the press away," Monroe said.

"And," he added, "if anybody asked, to say it was just a routine maintenance job."

As for CCE's claims that he left after taking one month of sick leave, Monroe retorted, "I left the company because I like to work in an honest professional manner. I don't believe anything should be hidden."

Monroe also confessed he was saddened to see the princess's memory scarred by what he calls "an unfitting tribute."

Only a thorough examination of the fountain could prove if Monroe's allegations are true.

But it's unlikely that the latest storm over the princess's fountain will die down, unless a new controversy comes along to take its place.

Now that heart surgeon Hasnat Khan is poised -- possibly in a matter of weeks -- to discuss his love affair with the princess for the first time when he takes the stand at the inquest into her death, concerns about the state of her memorial will probably be consigned to the inside pages of Britain's tabloids.

Fabiola Antezana contributed to the reporting of this story.