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Heath swim fees decision was ‘undemocratic’

City of London called a 'feudal relic' as campaigners question how decision makers are chosen

22 September, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Anne Fairweather, chair of Hampstead Heath’s management committee

PONDS protesters fighting compulsory swimming fees have set their sights on Hampstead Heath’s management committee, questioning how fairly it is formed. Campaigners branded the system “undemocratic” because committee members are either directly appointed or have won City of London council elections on small turn-outs.

Kenwood Ladies Pond Association (KLPA) joint-chairwoman Mary Powell said there should be a review after they voted to introduce the bathing pond charges against the advice of a users group.

The management committee’s current chairwoman, Anne Fairweather, who took on the post after the decision on fees was made, won her Tower ward seat uncontested. Another committee member was also elected with no opposition.

The KLPA say the low turnouts of an electorate made up of Square Mile residents and businesses for elections meant there was a lack of a mandate.

Ms Powell said: “It is shocking that 12 barely elected individuals and six appointees can decide the fate of thousands of Heath users who swim every year at the bathing ponds, many of whom rely on this to maintain their physical and mental health. The City of London is a feudal relic, doing real damage to real people in the 21st century.”

The City say they need to introduce compulsory charges because of increasing numbers and safety costs.

The Health and Safety Executive said there should be more lifeguards after a drowning last year.

Ms Fairweather said: “Since 1989 Hampstead Heath has been managed in an open, inclusive and democratic way, with 19 different local groups belonging to its consultative committee, and regular consultations with user groups and the wider community.

“The Heath Management Committee includes elected members from the City of London Corporation and Camden and Barnet councils, and representatives from English Heritage, RSPB, the Open Spaces Society and the Heath and Hampstead Society.”

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