Judicial review over disabled swimming charges at Hampstead ponds begins
Nathalie Raffray and Stefania Di Cio
- Credit: Polly Hancock
The battle over charging at the Kenwood Ladies' Pond has begun in the High Court between a disabled swimmer and the City of London Corporation (CoLC).
A judicial review to determine whether the charging regime to swim at the Hampstead Heath bathing ponds discriminates against disabled people began at the Royal Courts of Justice on Wednesday (February 23).
The review has been brought by disabled swimmer Christina Efthimiou, who lives in Kentish Town and is supported by the Kenwood Ladies' Pond Association (KLPA).
The 60-year-old claims the City of London’s compulsory charging system at the bathing ponds, introduced in 2020, disproportionately affects people with disabilities.
The CoLC denies the charges for swimming at the ponds are discriminatory or unlawful.
Zoe Leventhal, acting for Christina Efthimiou, told Judge Justice Cotter she would explain “the real barrier" posed to disabled users.
She said the Ponds are not comparable to a swimming pool or leisure centre.
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“She (Christina) has tried through the KPLA several times to engage with the defendant but they have refused to accommodate," she said.
She said that the CoLC has failed to meet its own objectives on monitoring the impact on disabled swimmers.
"There has been no monitoring and when it has been brought forward by the complainant, it has not been taken up," she said.
Before the trial Mary Powell, of the KPLA, said: "There's been a lot of work to get here and a lot of support from the swimming community. We're here to make the ponds more inclusive."
Ruth Hallgarten, chair of the KPLA, thanked the team for "all the work people have done to get us this far".
Michael Smith, from the Hampstead Men's Swimming Association, said he came to support the cause.
"I'm concerned I've seen so many swimmers disappear. They don't come anymore, the culture has completely changed since charges were introduced.
"I know that people that have gone are those people on low income, elderly, people who really needed an outlet to swim, especially over Covid.
“I am here to make sure that the City doesn’t continue to charge excessive amount of money, to increase the charges every year. If we don’t win this case that’s what they will do."
The hearing continues