Cost of Hampstead Heath ponds swim could be doubled
Swimmers 'horrified by threat of heavy-handed enforcement'
01 March, 2020 — By Dan Carrier
SWIMMERS who take cold water dips in ponds on Hampstead Heath say plans by the City of London to introduce compulsory charges will lead to “chaos”.
Three swimming associations covering the Men’s, Ladies’ and Mixed ponds say a proposal to double the cost of tickets and force people to pay are unworkable and will hit vulnerable people hardest. They add the City of London, which manage the common land, has not listened to swimmers during a consultation survey.
Following a review by the City of how they run the ponds, it was revealed this week the City’s Heath management committee will be asked to consider the plans to double the charge. The costs of full-priced swims will go up from £2 to £4, and concession tickets will increase from £1 to £2.40 – a rise of 140 per cent. Payments will be policed by Heath rangers.
Co-chair of the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association Nicky Mayhew said: “Swimmers are horrified by the threat of heavy-handed enforcement, which would destroy the ethos of these unique and incalculably precious places, as well as most likely excluding those who cannot afford to pay or will be put off by enforcement.”
Chair of Highgate Men’s Pond Association Chris Piesold added: “We are shocked that the City is attempting such a massive increase in charges and change in culture. For years, swimmers have complained that it is hard and sometimes impossible to pay, and the City now seems intent on punishing us for its own ineptitude at collecting money.”
The City introduced honesty box-style ticketing in 2005. But after a safety review following a drowning at the ponds last year and the increased popularity of the fresh water swimming, it says it now needs to fund extra lifeguards. To meet rising costs and pressures on the Heath budget, the City says it needs to raise funds from swimmers.
Karina Dostalova, who chairs the Heath management committee, said: “We will always provide affordable, subsidised, swimming. We are proposing a new support fund for people who cannot pay to swim, and we are freezing season ticket prices, so the ponds remain fully inclusive. We are considering contactless payment and a ranger to welcome swimmers, but there are no plans for mechanised turnstiles. No decisions have been made on charging. If prices change, they will be benchmarked against similar services at other open spaces. ”
The Heath Management Committee will consider proposals in March.
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