Letter to Camden New Journal: Heath Ponds Project is progressing well

I am writing to correct Dan Carrier’s article [Emergency measures to halt Hampstead Heath dam collapse], which wrongly stated that the temporary dam at Model Boating Pond was “in danger of collapsing”. To reassure readers, the temporary dam was subject to a rigorous monitoring and inspection programme which ensured that it was safe, and did not risk collapse.

The article also incorrectly said that the project would be complete in two years’ time. I’m pleased to say that work on the Viaduct Pond is now complete and the Vale of Health will be finished at the end of the month. The temporary dam issue at Model Boating Pond will not cause a delay to the overall delivery of the project, which remains on schedule for completion in Autumn 2016.

In the piece, Sebastian Wocker says that there “was never any need to do the work on the ponds” which have “always been perfectly safe”. However, it is clear that safety work is required. That is agreed upon by a government appointed inspecting panel engineer, industry experts, and local groups. In addition, our interpretation of the legal requirements, which we must follow, has been confirmed by Judicial Review.

Detailed studies show that the existing earth dams on both chains of ponds, which sit above large residential populations, could fail in a large storm, putting at risk lives, property and infrastructure below. Destructive storms may be rare, but one happened in 1975 and the Heath’s earth dams were damaged. And in 2010 a brief storm resulted in the Stock Pond overtopping with earth washed away from the top of the dam, which risked its collapse. The work being done means that the Heath’s earth dams will be able to withstand these more regular types of storms as well as the stronger, less frequent ones.

I understand that at this time, many Heath users are having to put up with disruption – particularly around the Model Boating Pond. But once the project is completed, the Heath will be a safer place for downstream residents and the ponds will benefit from greater ecological diversity, better views and paths, new reed beds and other wildlife habitats - and cleaner water.

Virginia Rounding
Chairman, Hampstead Heath Management Committee, City of London Corporation