Search

Hampstead Heath savings: Swimmers fear ‘benchmarking’ of fees could see ponds charges rise

PUBLISHED: 12:30 28 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:37 28 October 2020

Mary Powell of the Kenwood Ladies' Pond Association. Picture: Polly Hancock

Mary Powell of the Kenwood Ladies' Pond Association. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Hampstead Heath swimmers fear “benchmarking exercises” looking at the prices in place to use Heath facilities and to swim in the bathing ponds could see the already-unpopular swimming fees hiked.

Anne Fairweather chairs the Hampstead Heath Management Committee. Pictures: City of London Corporation / Nikki NewmanAnne Fairweather chairs the Hampstead Heath Management Committee. Pictures: City of London Corporation / Nikki Newman

At a meeting of the City of London Corporation’s (CoLC) Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee on October 19, members were told of the need to make savings or find additional income streams to the tune of £500,000 in the 2021-2022 financial year.

Colin Buttery, the CoLC’s director of open spaces, said the Heath team was expecting to be told to deal with a 12 per cent cut in its “local risk budget”, which amounts to around half a million pounds.

One plan to meet this cost could see charges to use sporting facilities and the Heath bathing ponds “benchmarked” over the winter.

Click here for more Hampstead Heath news from the Ham&High

Mary Powell, vice-chair of the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association said: “The freeze on season ticket prices was only ever for one year, even though there has been a 6 month period when season tickets were suspended in lockdown and during the initial re-opening of the ponds.”

You may also want to watch:

She said the KLPA would be “waiting and watching” to see how any benchmarking exercise shook out.

Colin Buttery, the CoLC’s director of open spaces, said the Heath team was expecting to be told to deal with a 12 per cent cut in its “local risk budget”, which amounts to around half a million pounds.

Mr Buttery said staff were working hard to find efficiencies and increase income.

In response, Highgate Society rep Michael Hammerson called for the CoLC to approach homeowners locally – whose property value benefits from the Heath nearby – as a fundraising strategy.

The CoLC’s Heath Superintendent, Bob Warnock, told the committee that income from plans to licence dog walking on the Heath and re-tender a contract to provide catering in the Heath extension could boost his coffers.

A CoLC spokesperson said: “We are committed to working to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our budgets and ensuring our finances are on a sustainable footing for the medium-term.”

The spokesperson added: “Members will consider how best to distribute the 12 per cent reduction across our services by making some difficult choices and prioritising spending in due course.”

This week, in correspondence with a concerned swimmer, the CoLC confirmed access to the meadows within the Ladies’ Pond compound was still free, with space for ten non-swimmers to relax there.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ham&High. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Hampstead Highgate Express