The independent London newspaper

The City of London Corporation should work with Heath swimmers

14 February, 2020

• I WRITE in response to recent disinformation concerning the income collected at the Hampstead Heath bathing ponds.

The City of London Corporation portrays swimmers as dishonest or entitled, for not paying to swim.

I swim daily at the Ladies’ Pond and have taken an active part in recent discussions with the city of London concerning the future management of the swimming ponds.

Until 2005 the swimming ponds were free of charge, and some swimmers still firmly believe that the ponds should remain so.

The Heath is effectively common land, saved in its current form for the people of London since the 19th century.

Swimming at the ponds is not the same as swimming at an enclosed leisure centre and is more akin to swimming at a lifeguarded beach.

That said, there are clearly costs associated with running the ponds, not least for the very skilled lifeguards who preside over them.

A compromise in which the “charges” were not enforced rigorously and “contributions” were encouraged has existed since 2005.

The city of London cites an erroneous figure of a 3.7 per cent collection rate on swimming charges.

Based on figures provided to the swimmer groups by the city it looks as if about 10 per cent of what might be charged is collected, with each swim costing about £1.14 to provide.

The city makes it difficult to pay too. The online payment option is poorly publicised and not user-friendly.

The payment machines are regularly out of order and do not give change. In addition a private company is paid to maintain and empty the faulty machines, approximately £13K per year.

The contribution posts have from time to time been left unemptied and then broken into over night. It is as if the city does not want to take our money.

Instead of ramping up charges to a level which will turn the ponds into an exclusive health club, the city should try to collect the current charges more effectively and work with the swimmer groups to encourage payment in a more efficient manner.

The Heath and the swimming ponds belong to all Londoners and should not become prohibitively expensive for people who live in the less affluent areas of neighbouring boroughs.

Swimming there should be accessible to the residents of Broadwater Farm as much as to those of Fitzroy Farm, or Holly Street Estate as much as those from Holly Lodge Estate.

The city seems to be poor at both maths and collecting money. Who would have thought it?



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