Disabled swimmer mounts legal challenge over ponds charges

Christina Efthimiou (left) has launched a legal challenge over swimming charges at Hampstead Heath

Christina Efthimiou (left) has launched a legal challenge over swimming charges at Hampstead Heath - Credit: Christina Efthimiou/Polly Hancock

A legal challenge has been issued claiming that the new charging regime for the bathing ponds discriminates against disabled people. 

An application for judicial review was announced on Wednesday (June 30) by Christina Efthimiou, who is disabled. Ms Efthimiou, 59, of Camden, is supported by the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association (KLPA).

The City of London Corporation (CoLC) previously introduced a self-policed charging regime, but in 2020 compulsory fees were introduced and have this year been increased.  

Ms Efthimiou says the new charges disproportionately affect people with disabilities.  

Non-concessionary rates were increased in line with inflation at 1.3%, but the cost of a six-month pass for those eligible for a concession was increased by 21.5% and a 12-month concession pass by 15.1%.  

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Ms Efthimiou argues that the City of London has breached its duty to make reasonable adjustments, as well as discrimination laws. 

But the CoLC said the Heath’s swimming facilities are “accessible to people of all abilities and backgrounds”.

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Ms Efthimiou, who has been swimming at the Ladies’ Pond for approximately four years, said: “The benefits to me are immense and if I have to stop using the ponds for my regular exercise I don’t know what I will be able to do instead.  

“I and many others will be priced out by the charges which will change the ponds to a privilege for the better off.” 

A spokesperson for the KLPA said its claim that the charges disproportionately disadvantaged disabled swimmers had been “disregarded”.

The group called for an “equitable” solution to “restore relations” between swimmers and the CoLC. 

Kenwood Ladies' Pond from 2000 to 2020. Picture: Ruth Corney

Swimmers dive into the Ladies' Pond - Credit: Archant

A spokesperson for the City of London said: “The Hampstead Heath charity offers a 40% swimming discount to disabled people, and a season ticket at the Bathing Ponds brings the cost of swimming down to as little as £1.46 per week. 

“A telephone booking system is in place, and there is free entry for carers to ensure swimming is fully accessible. 

“We subsidised swimming at the Bathing Ponds by nearly £600,000 in 2020/21 and we offer a comprehensive Support Scheme, including free morning swims for under 16s and over 60s. Concessions apply to disabled people and those in receipt of state benefits. 

“Swimming charges are reinvested to ensure that affordable, safe and sustainable access to outdoor swimming is available to as many people as possible for generations to come.” 

The application for judicial review follows on from a legal challenge brought in May by Ann Griffin, a registered blind swimmer from the KLPA.

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