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The railings on the roof

"We had a problem with women jumping off the roof" - a phrase I never thought I would read.

Emergency railings have been erected to stop people jumping off the roof of the Kings Hall. The city council has cordoned off part of the roof nearest the beach with a six-feet high cast-iron fence after a spate of death-defying incidents. At least two women have plunged off roof. One was found unconscious on the concrete below outside the theatre's entrance during a tea dance and had to be air-lifted to hospital. There have also been incidents of vandals throwing stones from the roof - which was once used as a band stand. One youth lost control of his skate-board which smashed into the rear window of a Ford Ka owned by one of the hall's staff. Tony Farrow, who runs Kings Caterers and books bands into the hall, said:

"The council has done a first class job. We had a problem with women jumping off the roof and vandalism. The vandalism has stopped since this fence went up. It is better for us and better for customers. It is a good thing."

Housewife Jill Smith, 46, who lives opposite the railings in Beacon Hill said:

"I've seen groups of five or six kids playing up there and doing tricks on their skateboards. It was worth putting the fencing up to protect them from hurting themselves. It doesn't look as nice as it did but at least the railings are the same old Victorian style like the rest of the area. I think the council has done the best they could to stop the problem."

But not everyone agreed. Another neighbour who did not want to be named said:

"I think it looks horrible. It looked so nice when there was a bandstand there in the old days. But now it looks like a prison. It doesn't do much good for Herne Bay's image having more fences and restrictions. It's not going to sort out the root of the problem. If kids want to get over that fence, they will just climb over it with their skateboards. In my opinion the main problem is kids drinking. They congregate all the way along here at all hours of the day and night. Why don't the authorities do something about them?"

Peter Vickery-Jones, the city council's executive member for property services, said:

"There is a high health and safety risk with the front section of roof on the Kings Hall. The existing railings were in a delicate condition and quite low. Young people have been jumping onto the kitchen roof below, things fall from the roof onto the promenade and the area suffers from extensive general vandalism. Skateboarders have to be responsible for their own actions but in this case we had to do something to make sure they are safe. We don't want to restrict everywhere kids go but they were damaging the roof and could have hurt themselves. Unfortunately, the dangers meant we could not leave it that way any longer. The vast majority of the roof area remains open and available for people to use."

He said ward councillors had been warned about the plans in the summer and there had been no objections. He added:

"We have a duty to protect people wherever possible and feel these measures are required for this reason."

HB Times 2009-10-20

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