Hampstead Heath Ladies’ Pond remains closed after sewage leak amid questions over water testing

Protesters gather at the Model Boating Pond on September 20. Picture: Polly Hancock

Protesters gather at the Model Boating Pond on September 20. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Hampstead Heath’s Ladies’ Pond remains closed due to a sewage leak, while protesters against compulsory charges returned on Sunday.

Picture: Polly Hancock

Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

The CoLC said the sewage leak which closed the Pond last Thursday has been cleared but that the pond will remain closed to swimmers as water quality tests continue, with no reopening date set.

Harriet Wills, of Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association, has challenged the summer’s water testing regime.

Public data shows the Ladies Pond was tested three times by the Environment Agency from July up until now, compared to 12 times over the same period last year.

Harriet said: “Water testing is even more necessary during a pandemic as it’s important for swimmers to stay healthy with strong immune systems, rather than the possibility of being weakened from contaminated water.”

Picture: Polly Hancock

Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A spokesperson for the CoLC said: “Water testing at the Bathing Ponds has been carried out by the Environment Agency, and additional water samples have been taken by the City Corporation and tested by Public Health England.

“We will always ensure that water quality at the ponds is safe for swimmers and currently we are testing the Men’s and Ladies’ Bathing Ponds on a daily basis.”

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On Sunday demonstrators including members of ‘Forum 71 and the Highgate Men’s Pond Association claimed the new charging regime - £4 for adults and £2.40 for concessions - was “excluding” vulnerable swimmers.

The protesters, led by drummers, marched around the Boating Pond and carried paper chains as they demanded wider community involvement in the management of the public Ponds.

The CoLC said the Heath was managed in an “open, inclusive and democratic” way, with 19 local groups part of its consultative committee.

The municipal body responsible for the Ponds said its Heath management committee included elected members from councils, conservation charities and community organisations.

On its charging regime, which was imposed for the first time in July, the CoLC’s chair of the Hampstead Heath Management Committee, Anne Fairweather, said the swimming facilities were “accessible to people of all abilities and backgrounds”.

Ms Fairweather said it was offering free or discounted swimming including for the elderly, job seekers and the disabled - but critics say many disabled people can’t afford its concessionary rates.