Hampstead Heath Ponds future secured following review of safety and charging
The future sustainability of the Hampstead Heath bathing ponds has been secured following a detailed review and close engagement with swimmers.
The review concluded that both the City of London Corporation and the swimmers who use the facilities agreed that action needs to be taken to ensure the welfare of the lifeguards, who are coming under increasing pressure as the facilities become more popular.
Visits to the bathing ponds increased to over 655,000 in 2018/19, up by more than 300,000 visits since 2010/11. More lifeguards and rangers will be employed to meet this rising demand, with additional training introduced.
There was also agreement that additional safety measures should be introduced following advice issued by the Heath and Safety Executive. This includes installing technology which will give a more accurate count of the numbers of swimmers in the water.
Hampstead Heath is a registered charity, funded by revenue generated though services, grants, donations and over £5m a year from the City Corporation.
To ensure the bathing ponds are run with a sustainable management model, the City Corporation is changing its payment scheme for using the swimming facilities to reflect rising costs. The net cost of providing the bathing ponds in 2020/21 is expected to rise from £747,000 to over £1 million.
Taking account of the feedback received during engagement with the Swimming Associations and the views expressed at the Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee on the 9 March 2020, the Hampstead Heath Management Committee met today to consider the options.
Members agreed that, as of May 2020, swimmers will be required to make a payment on entering or to hold a season ticket. Season ticket prices* will be frozen until April 2021 and adult day ticket prices will change to £4 and £2.40 for concessions, comparable to other lifeguarded facilities in London. Heath managers will bring in free morning swims for over 60s and under 16s at the bathing ponds, via a free early morning season ticket arrangement. Concessionary rates will be brought in line with other facilities on Hampstead Heath, which are based on a 40% discount of the adult rate. A new support fund for people who are not able to pay to swim and vulnerable users will also be launched, so the ponds remain inclusive to all.
To support swimmers paying the charges, the City Corporation will introduce contactless payment options and improve the online season ticket arrangements. New signage clearly setting out the options for payment along with safety information and the regulations for using the facilities will be installed.
Karina Dostalova, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath Management Committee, said:
“These changes will ensure our swimming facilities remain safe and stay inclusive as part of a sustainable mode of management so they can be enjoyed for years to come.
“We recognise the Heath’s ponds bring many benefits to those who visit and take time out from their busy lives.
“We are working closely with swimmers to make sure the right resources are in place to keep it that way. We would like to thank swimmers for their positive contribution and will continue to collaborate with them as we implement these changes.”
The Heath’s bathing ponds were originally created in the 17th and 18th centuries as reservoirs to meet London’s growing demand for drinking water. Over time, some were repurposed for public swimming. They include the Mixed Bathing Pond, Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond and Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond.
Hampstead Heath is one of London's most popular open spaces, situated just six kilometres from Trafalgar Square and receives over nine million visits a year. The City Corporation, which is a major green spaces provider in the capital, has protected the site since 1989.
It manages 11,000 acres of green space in London and south east England – including Epping Forest and Burnham Beeches - and over 200 smaller ones in the Square Mile.
They are funded by over £29 million a year from the City Corporation and include important wildlife habitats, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves. They are protected from being built on by special legislation.
* Freezing the season tickets at the current price of £66 a year for concessions, means if you swim three times a week, it costs just 42p per swim.
Notes to Editors
Key changes following from the review (a full list to be found in the Hampstead Heath Management committee report):
- Additional Lifeguards will be employed to allow for breaks and rotation of duties to maintain alertness.
- The introduction of a new system to monitor bathing load more efficiently and accurately. This is to ensure there is the correct ratio of swimmers to lifeguards re safety.
- Enhanced training for lifeguards.
- More rangers employed to support lifeguards to help manage visitors and operating the ponds on busy days.
- New safety equipment to be bought for the 2020 season.
- An increase in the level of cleaning during busy periods.
- More engagement with volunteers on conservation projects associated with the ponds.
- Working with each of the Swimming Associations and the Lifeguarding Team, the City Corporation will seek to establish Working Groups to collaborate on finding solutions to operational and access issues at each facility.
About the City of London Corporation
The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk