Police back plans to install suicide prevention posts on top of Chesterfield multi-storey car park

Vicar Lane Shopping Centre car park.

Vicar Lane Shopping Centre car park.

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Police have backed plans to install suicide prevention fences on top of a multi-storey car park in Chesterfield.

Vicar Lane Shopping Centre has submitted a planning application to Chesterfield Borough Council proposing that steel posts be fitted on the top deck of its 390-space car park.

Suicide prevention fences are designed to prevent people from trying to take their own lives by deliberately jumping.

In a consultation letter to the borough council, Keith Beswick, force crime prevention design adviser at Derbyshire Constabulary, said: "The site does have a history of misuse on the top level, leading to substantial inconvenience to town centre users and the use of police time and resources with associated road closures and negotiations.

"There was also a fatality in late-2015 when a pedestrian jumped on to the road below from the top level. Consequently the application has our unqualified support."

Mark Hudson, centre manager for Dora, a Chesterfield-based organisation which supports numerous mental health self-help groups in Derbyshire, also backed the proposals.

He said: "Sadly, I'm aware of people who've been up there and jumped.

"If the fencing saves one life, it's been a good result."

Manchester-based Savills manages Vicar Lane Shopping Centre. A spokesman said: "Savills can confirm that health and safety is regarded with the utmost importance and reviews are carried out on an ongoing basis. The recent planning application is part of this process."

The spokesman said he did not have figures on the number of people who have threatened to jump from the top of the car park nor did he have statistics on the number of people who have sadly died by committing suicide in this way.

The planning application comes three months after an inquest into the death of Jamie Ormiston, who fell from the Vicar Lane car park in summer 2010.

The 39-year-old, of Longcroft Avenue, Dronfield, had a history of mental health issues.

During the inquest at Chesterfield coroners' court, his parents Roderick and Ann said: "He was highly intelligent, extremely funny, very popular, very caring, sensitive and polite.

"He was the life and soul of the party.

"People still burst into tears when they talk or think about him.

"He was a lovely, lovely young man and left a wonderful impression on so many people.

"To say he's sorely missed is a gross understatement."

The inquest ruled Mr Ormiston committed suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed.

Commenting on the plans on the Derbyshire Times’ Facebook page, Tracy Mack said: "Finally!"

Karen Booth said: "Suicide prevention fences need to be put on the other two multi-storey car parks in town as well."

Bev Smith said: "Try investing money to help people."

Elizabeth Jean said: "Sufferers need support, someone to talk to, not a piece of fencing."

Gemma Rose Powell said: "More support needs to be given before it gets to this point or a place for people to turn if they can’t talk to those they know."

- Chesterfield would not be the first place to see suicide prevention barriers installed. Indeed, they already exist at many locations both here in the UK and across the globe. Barriers were installed at the Erskine Bridge, which spans the River Clyde in Scotland, five years ago. The so-called Luminous Veil consists of more than 9,000 steel rods, 12.7cm apart and 5m high, on the Prince Edward Viaduct in Canada. The Luminous Veil was in place by 2003 – after a total of nearly 500 people used the bridge to jump to their deaths. A 2010 study by the British Medical Journal found: “Although the barrier prevented deaths at the Prince Edward Viaduct, the rate of suicide by jumping in Toronto remained unchanged. This lack of change might have been due to a reciprocal increase in suicides from other bridges and buildings.” Meanwhile, after a long campaign, suicide prevention barriers are to be installed at the Golden Gate Bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area of America. Since it was erected in 1937, more than 1,700 people have jumped off the bridge and just 25 are known to have survived, according to Robert Olson, of the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Canada.

- The Samaritans provides a free, confidential listening service all day, every day, all year. Whatever you’re going through, you can call the helpline on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. Visit www.samaritans.org.uk for details about the Samaritans. Mind offers information and advice to people suffering from mental health problems. Call the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 or email info@mind.org.uk. Visit www.mind.org.uk for more information about Mind. For more information about Dora, visit dora-mentalhealth.org.uk