Parliament Hill Lido to be ‘handed over’ to private leisure company swimmers fear

Controversial firm that took over Haringey’s Park Road Lido tipped to take on running of Hampstead Heath’s open air pool

Hampstead Heath managers are looking at handing over the Parliament Hill Lido to a private leisure company, users fear.

Swimmers say they have been ‘reliably informed’ that the City of London Corporation has been in dialogue with the sports and leisure company Fusion Lifestyle over plans to take over the running of it.

Fusion currently runs Haringey’s Park Road Lido and has been at the centre of a flood of complaints.

Dr Matthew Banks, a consultant from UCLH, who swims at the Parliament Hill Lido every morning throughout the year, said: “It would be a disaster. Park Road has not been run very well and has been a shambles by all accounts and the fear is that the some will happen here.

“Swimmers at the Lido are worried the pool would be closed during the winter when there are fewer users as it would not be profitable,” he added.

Marc Hutchinson, chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said: “Many swimmers were talking about it at the last forum meeting and raising concerns with City of London Corporation representatives.

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“Fusion was mentioned and swimmers were warning about the terrible problems at the Park Road pool.”

Mr Hutchinson warned that any outsourcing would need to be considered very carefully.

The Ham&High has been told that the City has been talking to Fusion for months about taking over the Lido, the Parliament Hill running track and the tennis courts.

This comes as new Heath boss Virginia Rounding has warned she needs to find ways of raising income from Hampstead Heath as the Corporation faces a 10 per cent cut to its budget for all Open Spaces.

The Open Spaces department is currently consulting users on a new parliamentary bill to give it greater powers to raise revenue from the Heath and to regulate outsourcing.

Ms Rounding said: “One of the biggest challenges will be to do my job protecting open spaces, when budgets across the UK are under such pressure.

“Although there is a need to look at ways of bringing in more income, this is only where it can be done without compromising the basic purpose of the Heath.”

The Park Road Lido still remains half-closed with uncertain opening times, over a year after refurbishment started in early 2014.

The redevelopment at the pool, run by Fusion, has led to complaints from swimmers that he process was taking too long, with the pool closed for the entire summer of last year.

Sue Ireland, the director of Green Spaces at City of London Corporation said: “Nothing should be read into such market-testing research – and we don’t confirm every meeting or conversation.’

“The open spaces we provide for Londoners are an important green asset and we are always benchmarking what we do – to ensure good value and good practice.”

She also confirmed the City was looking at changes to Open Spaces service contracts “in order to provide an even better service, and better value.” she said.