Hampstead and Highgate civic groups slam plans to ditch ‘critical’ Hampstead Heath committees

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

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

The Heath and Hampstead Society are among a number of civic groups to emphasise their “fundamental opposition” to controversial plans that would see the City of London Corporation radically streamline its committee structure and ditch panels focused on the Heath and on Highgate Wood.

The plans are set out by Lord Lisvane, who produced an independent report which made more than 90 recommendations, including to merge all of the CoLC’s open spaces committees into one board.

Anne Fairweather, who chairs the two Heath committees, said she “really valued” the consultative committee and the accountability it – and others like it – provided.

The peer’s changes form the result of a governance review which is now to be considered by the CoLC’s elected members.

The Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee and Hampstead Heath Management Committee see a number of co-opted members from local groups involved in decision-making.

READ MORE: ‘Raccoon city’ graffiti sprayed atop Parliament HillThe Heath and Hampstead Society has reps on both panels. Its chair Marc Hutchinson said: “The legal position is that the Hampstead committees are established by ministerial order. They can’t be amended unless by another order.

“The society would oppose unconditionally, and by every means at its disposal, the suggested abolition of the Consultative Committee..”

Michael Hammerson, vice-president of the Highgate Society, also sits on the consultative committee, he said he though getting rid of it would be a “retrograde step” especially given he felt it has been “an outstanding model of good, constructive community engagement”.

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Helen Payne, secretary of the Friends of Kenwood House called the proposal “short-sighted” and added the consultative committee was “critical” in winning local support for the CoLC’s governance of the Heath.

Mary Powell, vice-chair of the Kenwood Ladies Pond Association, added any single City-wide open spaces committee “would be very remote” from the Heath’s users. She added that, She said despite the consultative committee’s recommendation about holding off introducing compulsory swimming being ignored, she feared what any replacement would be like.

She said: “I fear that management of the Heath and other precious green spaces would be focused even more on the financial bottom line with little regard for the communities dependent on access to such environments.”

Anne Fairweather, the CoLC member who chairs the two Heath committees, added: “Lord Lisvane has given his view, and its now for us as members to consider. Fundamentally I really value the contribution of the consultative committee, and it’s obviously established in statute.” She added the committees were a “huge support” to keeping the CoLC “accountable to the communities we work with”.

A CoLC spokesperson said: “These recommendations are far-reaching and wide-ranging. It is now for elected Members to consider how far they are appropriate and which should be taken forward.

“We are always happy to listen to the views of the public and our stakeholders.”