CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Instant £80 fines on Hampstead Heath

Cyclists and litter droppers could be hit with penalties

27 November, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Rubbish piled up on the Heath this summer and autumn

CYCLISTS who cross banned areas on Hampstead Heath will face instant £80 fines, under plans drawn up by the City of London. The on-the-spot tickets will also be issued to people seen dropping litter.

The City, which manages the Heath, is considering a range of offences breaching the open space’s bye-laws that could also be penalised. Currently, fixed penalties can be issued to dog owners who let their pets run out of control.

But under the new plans, given legal backing by the Open Spaces Act passed by Parliament in 2018, further cases, such as cooking barbecues or holding unlicensed events could become liable for an instant fine.

That could mean groups such as The Fairytale, a collective of New Age style hippies who gathered on the banks of the Highgate Boating Pond throughout the summer to host yoga, music and other events, could be told to pay.

The idea for stiffer action follows an increase in rubbish and anti-social behaviour as crowds flocked to the Heath during lockdown.

The City had removed a number of bins due to staffing and safety issues, and asked visitors to take their rubbish home – but a mountain of mess built up.

It says clearing up litter wastes money that could be spent on nature conservation, staffing and other necessities.

The City’s Heath safety chief Richard Gentry described in management committee papers how the fixed penalty notice system was similar to a parking ticket. Once the fine is paid, the person involved will not face any further action.

While it offers no formal grounds to appeal, the City plans to allow 14 days for those caught breaking byelaws to dispute the ticket. But if they refuse to pay, the City can refer the matter for prosecution in a magistrate’s courts.

Mr Gentry added: “This approach would allow the officers to deal quickly and proportionately with low-level, often first-time offending which could be resolved more appropriately without a prosecution in court.”

Anne Fairweather, the chair of the Heath Management Committee, said: “Visitors needed to be encouraged to take rubbish home or use re-designed bins and recycling points in new locations that were being added.

She said: We’ve taken a number of measures to reduce the amount of rubbish left on site but sadly a huge amount of litter is still being generated which is damaging wildlife habitats and spoiling the enjoyment of visitors. Clearing this rubbish is diverting funds which could otherwise be invested in other areas of the Heath.

“We want to make sure the Heath is a place that can be enjoyed by all, especially during these unprecedented times where the site has a key role to play in our mental and physical health.”

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