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Link or swim! New Hampstead Heath pond fees protest

200 people form chain

09 July, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

A MASS protest against the new Hampstead Heath charges for swimmers saw more than 200 form a chain around Kenwood Ladies’ Pond on Sunday.

Members of the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association (KLPA) were joined by swimmers from the Highgate Men’s Pond and the Mixed Pond Associations to send a clear message to the City of London, managers of the Heath, that the controversy over their plans has not gone away.

The new compulsory fees were voted through by the City’s Heath management committee in March and will see “honesty boxes” replaced.

The cost of a swim will rise from £2 to £4, while concessionary tickets are due to be go up 140 per cent, to £2.40.

Ruth Hallgarten, the new chairwoman of the KLPA, said: “We want to remind the City that we haven’t gone away and we still oppose their new charges. “The decision to enforce payment will destroy the unique atmosphere of the ponds and exclude many swimmers.“

She added: “We’re calling on the City to show compassion and reconsider its plans in the light of the unprecedented financial, physical and mental stress caused by Covid-19.”

The ponds currently remain closed, though a randomly selected group of 20 swimmers were invited to test out the new rules governing their use last week. They include timed slots, a one-way system, and a no-sunbathing rule.

Heath Management Committee chairwoman Anne Fairweather said: “The new charges were agreed after a detailed review and consultation with swimmers. Both the City Corporation and the swimmers agreed to take action to ensure the welfare of the lifeguards, who were coming under increasing pressure after swimming numbers doubled in the last decade.”

She added: “More lifeguards and rangers, needed to meet this rising demand, are now in place. We also agreed that additional safety measures should be introduced following advice issued by the Health and Safety Executive, including new technology to give a more accurate count of the numbers of swimmers in the water.”

“To ensure the bathing ponds are run with a sustainable management model, we have changed the payment scheme to reflect these rising costs.”

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