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Ladies’ pond swimmers ‘will be stranded’ by Hampstead Heath dams project

PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 July 2014

Mary Powell (second from right) and early morning swimmers at The Ladies Pond concerned about impact the dams project on the ladies pond being worse than previously thought - with women having nowhere to swim for three months despite previous assurances to the contrary.

Mary Powell (second from right) and early morning swimmers at The Ladies Pond concerned about impact the dams project on the ladies pond being worse than previously thought - with women having nowhere to swim for three months despite previous assurances to the contrary.

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Female swimmers have voiced their anger after discovering they could be barred from every bathing pond on Hampstead Heath during proposed dam engineering works.

Regulars at the Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond were “horrified” to learn this week that both their pond and the Mixed Bathing Pond are expected to be out-of-bounds for up to three months at the same time.

The full scale of disruption only came to light after the City of London Corporation, which runs the Heath, lodged its planning application for the controversial dam building project with Camden Council last week.

After scouring the nearly half-a-mile of paperwork, Mary Powell, secretary of the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association (KLPA), said the plans contradict previous assurances that either the ladies’ or mixed facilities would be open at any one time.

“People are horrified,” she said.

“We had been led to believe that we would at least have access to another pond whilst the ladies pond was closed, preferably with some provision for single-sex swimming.

“There’s almost disbelief about what is actually in the planning application.”

According to the plans, the ladies’ pond will close for up to seven-and-a-half months from October 2015, with the mixed pond shut from January to March 2016.

The men’s bathing pond is scheduled to shut for three months from May 2016.

However, a City spokesman insisted yesterday: “We expect to have two swimming ponds open during the construction period, apart from a potential two-week timeframe, and during this time we will make provision for segregated swimming at all times.

“We will write to Camden Council and the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association to clarify the situation.”

Ms Powell, 43, is one of many regulars who visit the ponds throughout winter, cycling from her Tottenham home to swim at 7am every morning.

“It’s very important to a lot of people,” she said.

“Swimming there on a daily basis is what keeps my body and soul together.”

There is also growing concern among pond users who chose single-sex swimming for religious reasons.

One ladies’ pond swimmer from the Orthodox Jewish community, a Golders Green resident who wished to remain anonymous, told the Ham&High: “I swim throughout the year – summer and winter – and it’s going to be a terrible thing.

“It will be a catastrophe. It would affect me very much health-wise.”

The City wants to enlarge or build new dams and spillways across the Heath, so that the ponds can withstand a one in 400,000 year storm.

The scheme has been met with widespread opposition and is facing a legal challenge from the Heath and Hampstead Society.

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