Hampstead Heath flood evacuation plans delayed by row between City and Camden

flooding at the Hampstead Heath ponds

flooding at the Hampstead Heath ponds - Credit: Archant

Emergency evacuation plans for homes beneath the Hampstead Heath ponds have hit the buffers after a spat between Camden Town Hall and Heath bosses.

The delay could threaten the safety of 1,000 residents should the dams burst and water cascade down into Hampstead, Gospel Oak and Dartmouth Park before safety measures are put in place.

In 1975 when a “freak storm” hit the Heath and the dams burst, more than £1million worth of damage was caused to the surrounding area.

Last Tuesday (January 8) police carried out an emergency exercise to test safety plans should a similar monsoon strike again.

Draft plans suggest the use of a siren has been ruled out to stop widespread panic in the streets.

It is likely that officers will use megaphones or knock on doors to ask residents to seek refuge above the ground floor.

But no final decision has yet been made, with Camden Council officials claiming they cannot sign off on the plans without greater co-operation from the City of London Corporation which manages the Heath.

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Speaking at a culture and environment scrutiny committee meeting on Monday (January 14), Gospel Oak Councillor Sean Birch said: “It has been a long, long time in terms of thinking about what would happen if there was an event. It’s shocking, I think, that we are still in a position where we are not sure if we tell people to go upstairs or evacuate.”

Camden officials warned that plans should be drawn up before the summer – the most likely time for the one in 10,000 year storms to occur. The City is carrying out a review of the area which would be affected should the dams burst.

So far two sets of maps of the affected area have been produced, one by the Environment Agency and the second by a hydrologists firm.

Town hall officials are waiting on the results of the review before informing the relevant residents of the safety plans.

But the council is also calling on the City to put its name to a joint letter which will be circulated to residents who would be affected.

A spokeswoman for the City said: “The City has procedures in place should a flood take place on Hampstead Heath. This includes alerting Camden Council as well as the police.

“Camden as the local authority, have a statutory responsibility to develop an emergency plan to alert residents should flooding occur.

“In addition to the Environment Agency maps which are publicly available, the City of London has produced its own more detailed flood maps as owner of Hampstead Heath. These were shared with Camden Council several months ago for information, and the decision lies with them on which maps to use as a basis for informing their residents.”