A long-established freedom has been taken away
30 July, 2020
• TO readers surprised and bemused at the continuing public outcry against enclosing the Hampstead Heath bathing ponds and charging for their use, I offer the following analysis.
Protesters see a long-established freedom, conferred by a democratic authority, parliament, taken away by a less than democratic one, the City of London Corporation; a related lip-service “consultation,” criticised for failing to observe local government best practice; a city corporation not listening or giving proper time to citizens (either as users of the Heath’s ponds or as members of the appropriate advisory body, the Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee, specifically created for such occasions.); many of London’s lowest paid workers ill affording the £4 charge now imposed for a swim, bearing in mind the too often, casual insecurity associated with low paid work; the astonishing fact of an integral part of the Heath being subtracted from the historic, legal and social totality and identity, thus curtailing the bathing ponds’ long-standing, singular, contribution to the health and happiness of the most hard up Londoners; at a time when physical and mental wellbeing is a growing social and human crisis.
They also note the irony, that while charitable funds are replaced by large charges at the ponds, those same charitable funds continue to support the grandest City wining and dining and fee-paying schools, among other things.
Observers merely, quite reasonably, enquire which of these is the most appropriate objective for such charity? Why claret over pond water? Why gourmandising over healthy exercise?
After nearly 150 years, people will not forget that the bathing ponds are as much part of the 1871 Hampstead Heath Act as every other topographical feature of Hampstead Heath and thereby intended to be freely available for the diversion of Londoners and a melting pot for all classes and kinds.
What a brilliant idea! That is why it has for long been called ’Appy ’Ampstead!
ROBERT SUTHERLAND SMITH
Chairman, United Swimmers Association