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Diapers, dogs blamed for Diana fountain woes

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Queen Elizabeth II opens the memorial to Princess Diana.
Is the fountain in London's Hyde Park a fitting memorial to Princess Diana?
Princess Diana
Prince Charles
Great Britain

LONDON, England -- People who visit the memorial fountain to Princess Diana are to blame for its problems, the British official in charge of the chaotic project said.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell criticized the people who dropped litter, including diapers, in the fountain in London's Hyde Park and allowed their dogs into the water.

When it is reopened, the £3.6 million ($6.6 million) memorial should be treated in a more respectful manner, she said.

The fountain, which suffered a series of setbacks in construction, has come in for public criticism since it opened, with some people calling it a "storm drain" and predicting it would get clogged with rubbish.

Queen Elizabeth II opened the fountain on July 6, almost seven years after Diana's death in an August 1997 car crash in Paris.

But a week after the ceremony, a blocked pump halted the water flow and it was closed for repairs.

Days later, three people -- including a child -- were hospitalized after slipping in the fountain.

When the memorial reopens, signs reportedly will be erected banning animals and litter, and children will be asked to paddle only in areas where the granite floor is flat.

"We accept that there are problems that the Royal Parks have got to sort out," Jowell told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"Once these are sorted, people have got to be responsible in the way they let their children play in the fountain.

"The critical issue is that this is a memorial. I don't think any responsible member of the public would want to see people allowing their dogs in it.

"How can we maintain the purity of the water if some people allow their dogs to paddle?"

Jowell said the majority of visitors to the fountain had behaved appropriately.

"Of the thousands of people who have enjoyed this, a small number appear to have behaved irresponsibly," she said.

"This is a place for reflection, contemplation and remembrance as well as a place for people to enjoy bringing their children."

Diana's brother Charles Spencer said he hoped that a balance would be found between the fountain being accessible to the public and being treated with the respect due a memorial to his sister.

Earl Spencer told the BBC: "I am not an expert on plumbing and fountains and how they work, but the general point that it is a memorial is definitely true.

"But also, I think the whole essence of Diana was her approachability and, somehow, these two things have to be balanced."

The memorial's U.S. creator, Kathryn Gustafson, said the design had aimed to reflect aspects of Diana's personality. Her design was picked for the project ahead of 57 other entries.

Construction of the 700-ton fountain, which began last summer, was dogged by delays and bureaucratic wrangling.

The Royal Parks provided extra funds after the creation ran £600,000 over budget. Some extra money was provided by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

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