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City accused of misleading public as ‘horrifying’ mock-ups of Hampstead Heath ponds plan released

PUBLISHED: 09:00 17 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:15 17 January 2014

Some views over the Model Boating Pond will disappear if the dam is raised, as shown in this image created by the Heath and Hampstead Society

Some views over the Model Boating Pond will disappear if the dam is raised, as shown in this image created by the Heath and Hampstead Society

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Campaigners battling plans for major construction works on Hampstead Heath released a set of stark new images this week, capturing one of the most drastic changes ever proposed for the ponds.

The view from the path between the Model Boating Pond and the Highgate Men's Bathing Pond as it is now The view from the path between the Model Boating Pond and the Highgate Men's Bathing Pond as it is now

The Heath and Hampstead Society, which is leading the Dam Nonsense campaign against the City of London Corporation’s controversial dam rebuilding project, produced the visuals after accusing the City of misleading the public with its own mock-ups.

The society claimed the new pictures give a much clearer idea of the true and “horrifying” impact of the £15million proposals.

They illustrate the affect on views from the path between the Model Boating Pond and the Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond, if a dam there is raised by 8ft as the City is proposing.

Helen Marcus, vice president of the society, said: “All of the City’s images show the dams from a great distance, therefore they are very misleading.

Helen Marcus, vice president of the Heath and Hampstead Society Helen Marcus, vice president of the Heath and Hampstead Society

“We have taken the actual diagrams about how the dams are being constructed and sent them to an expert to mock up what the dams will look like close up.

“When you’re walking on the Heath [between the model boating and men’s ponds] you see this beautiful waterscape currently, but you won’t be able to see it anymore.

“These great big dams will be looming up instead.”

The society also launched a massive leafleting drive this week as its Dam Nonsense campaign enters a critical phase, with only a month left before the City of London’s public consultation closes on February 17.

Some of the claims made on the Heath and Hampstead Society leaflets

■ The new dam structures will ruin parts of the Heath, making them look like municipal waterworks.

■ Building these dams is not a legal requirement. The Reservoirs Act stipulates only “measures in the interests of safety”.

■ The floods in 1975 – or at any other time – were not caused by the overtopping of the ponds. Flooding in South End Green, Gospel Oak and Kentish Town was officially recorded as due to torrential rainstorms and the failure of the sewers to cope.

■ The public is being misled – these enormous new dams will not stop flooding from storms in the future. The City admits: “Extreme storms will still cause floods in the area downstream after the work is complete.”

■ The computer modelling for these proposals is not based on facts, but on an extreme 1-in-400,000 year worst-case flood scenario which presumes total collapse of all dams and massive loss of life.

■ There has been no collapse of any dams, no uncontrolled escape of water and no deaths in any storm in the ponds’ 300 year history.

■ The professional guidance behind these extreme calculations is still being questioned within the engineering profession.

It has printed up 30,000 flyers detailing a litany of arguments against the scheme, to be delivered to households across neighbourhoods surrounding the Heath.

“The City has sent out thousands of leaflets to people so we had to do something to counter that,” Mrs Marcus said.

“Their information is incredibly partial and there’s lots of stuff they’re not telling people.”

The City claims it is required by law to enlarge the Heath’s dams, to protect against the threat to life posed by an extreme storm that is forecast to happen only once every 400,000 years.

A spokesman said the society’s new images are themselves misleading – because there will be a new walkway at the top of the raised dam, meaning the views across Model Boating Pond will be preserved.

Jeremy Simons, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath Management Committee, said: “Our own pictures of these much-needed safety works are detailed and accurate.

“They can be seen in both the exhibition displays currently on the Heath, in our leaflet and on our website.

“We are confident that anybody who examines these for themselves will realise that we are taking a measured approach to a very real public safety issue.

“We have gone to great lengths in the past 18 months to engage with the local community to develop proposals which balance the protection of the Heath’s wonderful landscape with the safety improvements which are required – and our proposals reflect this. That is what the current consultation is all about.

“We welcome everyone’s views, so I urge all Ham&High readers to go and look at the displays at Parliament Hill staff yard or East Heath car park or go to www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/pondsproject for more information.”

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