CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Publicity and the ponds

14 February, 2020

Hampstead Heath Ponds

• I REFER to the letter by Patrick McLennan, (Our film on the Heath ponds was not a puff for the City of London, January 30).

A rising trend in demand for something with a fixed supply is made more unbalanced when you make and promote a commercial film designed to increase demand for it.

That is what happened last year, when demand at the swimming ponds jumped a spectacular 54 per cent. It is not “wild assertion” but basic economics.

I was flattered to be invited to see the film screening by the Heath management at the Barbican cinema but, sadly, felt obliged to decline because of that. Such screenings, over weeks, inevitably had a significant, “above trend”, impact on numbers.

The imbalance concerning the time permitted for the swimming associations to consult and respond to the city corporation’s plans (to date undisclosed) has been a process, of short notice meetings during cold, dark, wet, January nights; more winter blitzkrieg, than a consultation process.

Given the leading role of a PR consultant, hired by the city, was it a tactic? It began with a “dawn” media strike and gave swimmers minimal time to confer and respond.

The assertion that swimming costs are significantly disproportionate to those for the rest of the Heath, has proved erroneous.

Heath accounts and statistics show that swimming gross costs, in relation to user numbers, are not greatly dissimilar from those Hampstead Heath as a whole.

Moreover, by what principle of finance, economics, or other principle, is a lifeguard essentially different from a Heath constable in a vehicle, a keeper with a tractor, or an administrator in an office?

Most of us swim in the Hampstead ponds for the enjoyment of the nature and the peace and quiet of Hampstead Heath – the same reasons we have for walking over them!

Pleasures made free of charge by the word and spirit of the Hampstead Heath Act 1871.

ROBERT SUTHERLAND SMITH
Chairman United Swimmers Association

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