Conservative parliamentary candidate criticises Heath dams project laws as Environment Secretary visits Highgate ponds

The Conservative parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn has hinted that his first priority in Parliament would be to seek a change to laws enforcing the controversial Hampstead Heath dams project.

Speaking after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson visited some of the ponds affected by the plans on Thursday (July 10), Hampstead Town councillor Simon Marcus said he may pursue a private members’ bill to alter the 1975 Reservoirs Act if elected to the House of Commons.

Cllr Marcus, who will stand against Labour’s Tulip Siddiq and Lib Dem candidate Maajid Nawaz in next year’s general election, said: “Circumstances change and legislation absolutely has to be updated. If I was in Parliament after May next year, I would be working really hard to ensure that there are amendments which could save the situation.” He believes that the result of a planned High Court challenge to the £17million scheme could affect similar collections of ponds around Britain and pledged to “give 100 per cent” in his opposition to the proposals.

“The future of the Heath, which we have to pass on to future generations, is at stake,” he added.

“We have to make our stand here. This is David and Goliath.”

The City of London Corporation, which manages the Heath, says the decision to raise dams at four of its ponds by between one and 2.5 metres – in addition to constructing a new 5.6m dam at the catchpit area in Hampstead – is essential for complying with government safety rules.

Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, appeared close to laughter as chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, Marc Hutchinson, stated that the chance of the Heath’s existing dams collapsing in the event of an extreme downpour and contributing to 300 deaths is estimated at once in 400,000 years.

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Mr Paterson, who was meeting councillors and supporters of the Dam Nonsense protest group at the path between the Model Boating Pond and the Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond, felt it was unsuitable for him to cast a judgement on the issue.

He said: “I’m obviously very interested in developing flood defences all across the country, but you have to use the appropriate method to prevent any potential flood according to local circumstances.

“I am keen we involve local people on this and I’m very aware about what the strength of feeling is here.”