Hampstead Heath will look the way it did before, say City of London chiefs as controversial dam work comes to an end
New flood defences mean the ponds can hold the equivalent of 61 Olympic swimming pools of extra water
25 November, 2016 — By Dan Carrier
Virginia Rounding cuts the ribbon on the island with no name
THE new island on Hampstead Heath’s model boating pond was officially declared open on Friday, bringing an end to the controversial £23million dam-strengthening project.
But a campaign to have the new island given a name has not been successful, with Heath managers the City of London confirming they have no plans to use any of those suggested by New Journal readers.
Many say it should actually be called a peninsula, as it is connected to the pond bank by a short stretch of land. Heath superintendent Bob Warnock said he felt it would be given “informal, local names and people will respond in that way”.
Mr Warnock joined the City of London’s chairwoman of the Heath’s management committee, Virginia Rounding, to cut a ribbon at the causeway to the island.
“The aim was always to put the Heath back in a way that would mean visitors coming here in a year’s time would not see huge work the Heath has undergone,” he said. The new flood defences, which critics predicted would disfigure the Heath, mean the ponds can hold the equivalent of 61 Olympic swimming pools of extra water.
Mr Warnock said the Heath would recover in time – with a little help from a planting project to replace trees lost and swathes of land re-grassed as wildflower meadows. He added: “We need two seasons of growth. It just needs time and, by the spring, it will look really good.”
Among those attending the ceremony was the Heath and Hampstead Society chairman Marc Hutchinson, who had led a campaign to have the work blocked by the High Court.
He told the New Journal: “We were absolutely right to take it to a judicial review and we still regret having lost the case because we thought we had a good case and still believe that, with the standard of safety being too high and unreasonable.”
He added: “It is too early to say what the effect on the landscape will be in the sensitive areas, that judgment will be made next summer, but so far we think the major works at the boating ponds and the catchpit are not as unsightly or artificial as we feared they might be, so far as we can tell.
“The clear majority of public opinion, including our members, is that the City and their contractors Bam Nuttell have done a good job. The appearance is overall much better than when the work started.”