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Anger of pond chairman: Charges have ‘ended swimming for many’

'You wasted our time and made public fools of us'

09 October, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Chris Piesold has stood down as chairman of the Men’s Pond Association

HAMPSTEAD Heath’s managers have been sent a stinging letter over new charges to swim in the ponds.

In his final act as the chairman of the Men’s Pond Association, Chris Piesold told the City of London it had been “orchestrating a disaster”.

He stood down from the role at the association’s AGM last week.

In a letter to Heath Management Committee chairwoman Anne Fairweather he said: “With some imagination and generosity of spirit you could have achieved your objectives through cooperation and collaboration rather than commodification, confrontation, and coercion.”

The City has faced protests all year to the fees which it says are needed to pay for new lifeguards and added safety measures amid the booming popularity of open air swimming.

Mr Piesold said he felt by taking part in a City-run consultation into how to manage the ponds, he and other swimming group representatives had been felt “damaged by association”.

He said: “I am stepping down as chair as I have personally been deeply compromised by you and your colleagues.By trying to work with you it has become apparent we were colluding with an enemy in a process that would dispossess many who were depending on us to help them retain access to the ponds they cherished. Not only have you tarnished yourselves, but you have damaged by association those who sought to work with you.”

Campaigners against the fees gathering, before the coronavirus pandemic, outside a City of London meeting

Criticising the consultation, he said: “It served no purpose other than to offer a false sense of engagement. It has ended swimming for many. The damage done to the swimming communities and the culture of the ponds is incalculable. Decision makers appear remote and judgemental of a culture of which they know nothing. You wasted our time and made public fools of us.”

Mr Piesold suggests a new independent ponds endowment fund, offering a long-term financial solution.

Ms Fairweather told the New Journal: “The review was carried out to ensure a sustainable management model is in place so that future generations can continue to enjoy the benefits of swimming outdoors. The new charges were agreed by the committee, following a detailed review and consultation with swimmers and the Heath Consultative Committee.

“Both the City and swimmers agreed action needed to be taken to ensure the welfare of the lifeguards after swimming numbers doubled in a decade. “More lifeguards and rangers are now in place.”

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