Hampstead Heath bathing ponds and Parliament Hill Lido could reopen on July 4 – but swimmers’ group concerned about online booking and launch of fees

A man lowers himself into the Highgate Men's Pond. Picture: Joshua Thurston

A man lowers himself into the Highgate Men's Pond. Picture: Joshua Thurston - Credit: Archant

Hampstead Heath bosses are looking at ways to open the bathing ponds and Parliament Hill Lido from July 4.

The Hampstead Heath Mixed Pond. Picture: Joshua Thurston

The Hampstead Heath Mixed Pond. Picture: Joshua Thurston - Credit: Archant

But with the reopening set to see the launch of compulsory payment to swim, the Kenwood Ladies Pond Association (KLPA) has criticised plans for online-only booking and again slammed the consultation which saw mandatory £4 fees introduced.

July 4 could see the ponds reopening as that is when “step three” of the government’s lockdown easing plans could kick in.

READ MORE: Hampstead Heath bathing ponds: Compulsory charges approved as swimmers criticise bosses who ‘didn’t understand’The City of London Corporation’s (CoLC) effort to reopen while keeping users and lifeguards safe includes temporary plans such as training for lifeguards to adapt to social distancing and limiting swimming to fixed sessions, pre-booked online.

Plans to allow a parent and two children to swim together at the Lido are in the works.

Nicky Mayhew, co-chairwoman, Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association.

Nicky Mayhew, co-chairwoman, Kenwood Ladies Pond Association. - Credit: Supplied

KLPA co-chair Nicky Mayhew told the Ham&High she was concerned about the risk of digital exclusion posed by online booking.

The CoLC said staff would be able help those who could not book online, but did not say whether already-purchased season tickets will be valid.

READ MORE: Protest over reopening of Hampstead Heath bathing ponds, but swimmers split over safety amid coronavirus pandemicAnne Fairweather, the new chair of the CoLC’s Hampstead Heath Management Committee, said: “We know how important the Heath’s ponds and lido are to so many people, particularly our regular, loyal swimmers. That’s why we are keen to have this recovery plan in place.”

In May, the CoLC published a report suggesting an app, contactless payments and RFID-enabled wristbands would help manage payments, but these systems are not yet ready.

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In the same report, the CoLC said discretionary support to maintain diversity of access to swimming had been paused due to Covid-19.

The KLPA has reiterated its criticism of the consultation. The KLPA claims that although swimmers entered into it in good faith, the CoLC always planned to introduced mandatory charges and did not fully cost other options. Heath bosses have disputed this, saying they made the best decision to “safeguard” Heath swimming.

The KLPA queried why, in approving compulsory fees, the CoLC’s Heath Management Committee broke with precedent – and an assurance made to the House of Lords in 2017 – and overruled its Heath Consultative Committee.