Bridge faces closure on May Day next
year after mounting pressure by Thames
Valley police to prevent
a repeat occurrence of this year’s celebra­tions, when forty people were
injured. Some
eight thousand people gathered on Magdalen
Bridge on May eve and
more than a hundred people jumped 25ft from the bridge into the river, which
was less than 3ft deep in some places. Talks have been taking place between the
police, the university and other local authorities to help avoid a repeat of
these injuries. A
motion brought before the county council in June was defeated by 41 votes to
22, however documents released to The times this week have shown that a series
of debates are ongoing between local authorities, with the police sup­porting
closure. The chief constable of police, peter Neyroud, said he “would rather
answer angry letters about clo­sure than face a court proceeding after the
incident.” Superintendent
Jim Trotman, area Commander for Oxford,
told Cherwell "We want everyone to have a safe event but the
jumping conflicts with [that]. I cannot see any other safe course of action
than to shut the bridge." He added, "we don’t want to be killjoys but
it’s about public safety and last year was unacceptable." Trotman noted
the "impact of fifty or sixty injuries on the emergency services’ ability
to deal with other incidents in the county." A
spokesperson from Oxfordshire county council said, “The county Council has
powers to close a bridge if it is assessed that there would be a dangerous
crush or if too many people were on the bridge. However there needs to be a
common view on the way forward." Matt
Sellwood, a Green party Councillor for Holywell ward, which includes Magdalen Bridge, said, “I do not believe that the
bridge should be closed on May Day. I would certainly encourage all students
not to jump… but I think that it is perfectly possible to preserve this
traditional ceremony while still preventing people from jumping.” A
spokesperson for Oxford
University said, “There
have been no decisions at this point about next year. The issue is under
discussion with all representatives from the police, council, university,
Magdalen college, security, ambulance and fire services.”ARCHIVE: 6th week MT 2005