Calls for safety review of Hampstead Heath dams project rejected

Hampstead Heath bosses have rejected calls to review a report which claims 1,000 people could be killed if a tropical storm hit.

The plea from conservationists came after earlier controversial designs to upgrade the dams on the Heath’s series of ponds were ditched last week.

Heath-lovers have argued that the City of London Corporation, which manages the Heath, should tear up its original risk assessment and order a fresh one as the �15million project goes back to the drawing board.

The report claims homes in Gospel Oak and Dartmouth Park could be flooded and lives lost if the volume of water it would take to fill Wembley Stadium was to rain down on the Heath – the likelihood of which is calculated at once in 10,000 years.

Engineer Jeremy Wright, of the Heath and Hampstead Society, who sits on a committee which will be consulted on the Heath dams project, said: “At the time the City of London is starting again on the dam designs they should also do a review of the risk assessment.

“The society urges that the City of London redoes its risk assessment as the previous one indicated extremely high loss of life.”

Newly-appointed design team W.S.Atkins – which worked on the Olympic Park – will review hydrology studies and dam design.

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But Simon Lee, Heath superintendent, has ruled out carrying out another risk assessment.

In a report he wrote: “The review will not include a quantified risk assessment. This is not part of any of the required guidelines or procedures and would take considerable time and resources diverting the team away from proceeding with the works with all deliberate speed.”

In the overhaul of the project, the City announced the appointment of strategic landscape architect Peter Wilder to “defend the cherished landscape of the project”. Mr Wilder will also challenge “any engineering solution that fails to respect the natural aspect of the Heath”.

Mr Wilder, of Wilder Associates, said: “This is a significant project and one that should blur the boundaries between engineering and nature.

“The Heath is an important and well-preserved piece of nature that is cherished by those who live near it and enjoy the relief from urban stress that it provides.

“I believe I can introduce some new and innovative approaches to the proposed works that will help to improve water quality and preserve the character of the Heath.

“This is an important opportunity to integrate green technology into traditional approaches to dam infrastructure.”

Contracts are being negotiated, but preliminary designs should be announced by October 2013.