Hampstead Heath swimmers launch legal crowdfunder amid more protests
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Protestors continue to urge the Hampstead Heath bosses to reverse the decision to bring in compulsory charges to swim on the Heath - and the women bringing a legal case challenging this have launched a crowdfunding campaign.
Earlier in May, law firm Leigh Day revealed that, on behalf on the Kenwood Ladies' Pond Association (KLPA) and swimmer Ann Griffin, it had submitted a "letter before action" and was considering applying for a Judicial Review over the City of London Corporation's (CoLC) decision to institute mandatory charging in March 2020.
Now the KLPA is fundraising, using the CrowdJustice platform.
Mary Powell, vice-chair of the KLPA, said: “The KLPA has been receiving messages of support from its members and the wider community, from people who are concerned about keeping the bathing ponds accessible.
"This has included offers of donations towards a legal challenge, and now we are launching our crowd funding page to support the costs of a judicial review. Initially we need to raise £5,000 for this to go any further, then our overall worst case costs of £30,000 will be included in the target."
The CoLC has defended the accessibility of the Ponds, and a spokesperson said: “We deny any suggestion that the decision to bring in charging for swimming at the Bathing Ponds is discriminatory or unlawful."
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The protest on Sunday, organised by the separate Forum 71 group, took place on the final day of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Campaigners sought to highlight the importance of the Heath's bathing ponds for swimmers' mental health, and argued that the compulsory charging had undermined this.
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Tom Frederic, a swimmer at the Highgate Men's Pond, said: “Now more than ever, the benefit to London of maintaining the historic open access to the bathing ponds, free from compulsory charges, should be as obvious as it is immeasurable.”
A CoLC spokesperson added: “All 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.
They said the CoLC had subsidised Heath pond swimming by £600,000 last year, and emphasised a "comprehensive Support Scheme, including free swimming for under 16s and over 60s".
They added: “The Heath’s swimming facilities are accessible to people of all abilities and backgrounds."