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Hampstead Heath ponds swimmers protest again but disappointment as pools not covered by government reopening guidance

PUBLISHED: 18:31 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:05 07 July 2020

The incoming and outgoing chairs of the Kenwood Ladies' Pond Association Ruth Hallgarten (left) and Nicky Mayhew. Picture: Polly Hancock

The incoming and outgoing chairs of the Kenwood Ladies' Pond Association Ruth Hallgarten (left) and Nicky Mayhew. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Members of the Hampstead Heath swimming associations reconvened to protest against the imposition of mandatory charges for using the Heath’s ponds on Sunday.

Regular Kenwood Ladies' Pond swimmer Barbara Massey at a socially-distanced protest against charging to bathe on the Heath and the continued closure of the Ponds. Picture: Polly HancockRegular Kenwood Ladies' Pond swimmer Barbara Massey at a socially-distanced protest against charging to bathe on the Heath and the continued closure of the Ponds. Picture: Polly Hancock

Although the City of London Corporation (CoLC) has begun trialling measures which would see the ponds reopen, it has not set a reopening date after it emerged such facilities were not listed by the government among those which could reopen on July 4.

And at the weekend, campaigners resumed their campaign, which dates back to January, against the new compulsory charges – £4 for adults, £2.40 for concessions – to swim on the Heath.

At a socially distanced protest in Millfield Lane, swimmers again got out their banners and criticised the move.

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READ MORE: Hampstead Heath pond swimmers trial social distancing, but campaign against charges will continue

Swimming groups like the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association, the Highgate Men’s Pond Association, and the Mixed Pond Association, have maintained the winter’s consultation on charging was a “sham”, and urged the Heath’s managers – the CoLC – to explore other ways of raising the money needed to keep the ponds sustainable.

But citing increased lifeguard and safety costs, and a need to know how many swimmers are in the ponds and the Parliament Hill Lido are at any one time, the CoLC approved charges in March, shortly before the coronavirus saw the ponds shut.

Ruth Hallgarten, chair of the KLPA explains “We want to remind the CoLC that we haven’t gone away and we still oppose their new charges. The decision to enforce payment will destroy the unique atmosphere of the ponds and exclude many swimmers. We’re calling on them to show compassion and reconsider its plans in the light of the unprecedented financial, physical and mental stress caused by Covid-19.”

The CoLC has said charges are the only way to maintain the ponds, and that it “understands how important the ponds and the Lido are” to north Londoners.

Anne Fairweather, who chairs the CoLC’s Heath Management Committee, said trials meant the ponds could reopen as soon as was allowed.

She added: “We have put a lot of effort into getting ready for opening in a COVID-secure way and hope that the government revises its position on pools shortly.”


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