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Heatwave scuffles marked ‘worst day in 35 years’ at Lido

Staff did 'remarkable' job amid tension at outdoor pool

01 August, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

BAD behaviour at the Parliament Hill Lido on one of the hottest days on record led to a manager describing it as his worst shift in 35 years working on the Heath.

The City of London Corporation, which manages the pool, said it was working with police to ensure swimmers do not face a repeat of Thursday’s strained atmosphere if heatwave temperatures return, with procedures constantly under review.

Paul Maskell, the head of events on the Heath, posted a series of tweets as the day unfolded, explaining that the Lido had been shut due to “anti-social behaviour”.

He added: “Take nothing away from Lido staff heroes. To quote a Band of Brothers, ‘day of days’. Quite simply the worst day in my 35-year working history and by the way I have managed some tough places.”

Police were called after a number of “minor scuffles” broke out in the queue at the start of what turned out to be the hottest July day on record in Britain. It is thought that queue jumpers had annoyed others waiting in line. Officers remained at the Lido to prevent “a breach of the peace” after there were further “incidents of disorder”.

The City of London had shut the queue at about 10.20am because it was already so busy, and later cancelled the evening swim session.

Dr Eleanor Kennedy, chair of the Parliament Hill Lido User Group, said the Corporation had done “a lot” to ease queuing after a similar hot summer last year, but added: “I think there’s a lot more than can still be done. I hope that the Corporation of London will be taking the events of last Thursday forward, and discussing it with the lifeguards on duty to see what can be done to make this better. “Every time it happens we refine it and we get better to the point where people are informed and people are not left waiting outside for inordinate periods of time.”

Extra security is employed to manage the crowds on peak days.

Dr Kennedy added: “I think the staff did a remarkable job considering how many people were there on the day. We’ve got this fantastic gem of a resource on the Heath that people want to use and we’ve only got a maximum capacity of 3,000 people. If you have many more standing queuing outside then of course people are going to get fractious. The heat makes people a bit grumpy in the UK as we are just not used to that level of heat.”

She added that there need to be more outdoor pools and lidos across London, especially as temperatures continue to rise.

“The lidos need to work together a bit more to ensure that lidos across the UK are sharing good practice and learning from one another about how best to deal with the crowds we are witnessing on the really hot summer days.” Dr Kennedy said.

A spokesperson for the City of London said: “Anti-social behaviour on Hampstead Heath is completely unacceptable. The safety of our visitors is our top priority and we work closely with the Metropolitan Police Service to ensure a secure environment for the public. “We are encouraging anyone who witnesses antisocial behaviour to call the Hampstead Heath Constabulary on 020 8340 5260. In an emergency always call 999.”

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