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Heath boss: High Court ruling is pleasing and dams project will ‘enhance’ landscape

PUBLISHED: 12:39 28 November 2014 | UPDATED: 14:47 28 November 2014

Bob Warnock outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the verdict was handed down

Bob Warnock outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the verdict was handed down

Archant

The superintendent of Hampstead Heath said he was pleased the outcome of the dams project judicial review has provided “clarity” – and he insisted it will “enhance” the landscape.

Mrs Justice Beverly Lang today rejected the Heath and Hampstead Society’s High Court legal challenge and ruled in favour of the City of London Corporation.

Her decision lifts a cloud of uncertainty which had been holding back the dam safety project - although the society has already said it will continue to challenge the proposals.

Bob Warnock, who took over from Simon Lee as superintendent earlier this year, said: “Our reaction is we’re pleased with the judgement today.

“It gives clarity on the scheme, particularly in relation to our interpretation of the law and guidance.

“It allows us now to prepare for the next stage of implementing the scheme; we’re conscious that we have still to secure planning permission from Camden Council.”

It was suggested to Mr Warnock that the City still faces opposition from the majority of Heath users and surrounding residents, but he insisted there was plenty of support for its plans, particularly from residents of Gospel Oak.

“There are people who understand the proposals, they see the landscape around the Model Boating Pond will be enhanced, the shape of the pond is going to be slightly larger and less formalised.

“There are people who support the scheme.”

The Model Boating Pond is set to see some of the biggest changes. It will be expanded to take in a cluster of trees, which will sit on a new island in the middle of the pond. The dam at the south of the pond, where it meets the men’s pond, will become much higher.

On the Hampstead side of the Heath, the Catchpit valley will undergo the biggest transformation. It will be filled in to create a new 18ft-high dam.

Mr Warnock said many benefits will come from what is being proposed.

“The landscape remains at the heart of the scheme,” he said.

“The scheme is not only designed to protect the Heath, to improve the ecology and the water quality, but also to secure the dams in line with the standard set by our panel engineer [Dr Andy Hughes].

“The point is, it’s our duty to protect the downstream community from the risk of dam failure.

“That’s our primary purpose. And what we have done is to ensure our design best fits with the landscape.”

Mr Warnock dismissed any suggestion that the scheme could now be altered in light of the legal battle, in the hope of seeking more of a compromise with the Heath and Hampstead Society.

“It would be inappropriate now to redesign the scheme,” he said.

“We have got a clear judgement that our interpretation [of the law] is correct.”

He said the City was still hoping to secure planning permission soon – in December or January – so works can begin in spring next year.

He added: “Today has been very positive, another step on the way.

“It gives some reassurance to councillors [who will rule on the planning application] in terms of the legality of scheme, which was being questioned.

“We were confident we had interpreted the law and guidance correctly.

“We have been working on the scheme for many years and it was important to take that advice early on.

“Now it has been proved right.”


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