Report of the Superintendent of Hampstead Heath.
Members considered an update report of the Superintendent and the following points were made:
· With regards to Appendix 1, Members were advised that the updated AWP covered all disciplines and cyclical work and all shaded items were new. Members were invited to provide feedback to the Superintendent via email.
· A Member (Highgate Society) inquired whether there was consideration over the conditions for hedgehogs and the improvement of ecological corridors to renew wildlife at the Heath. The Member felt that Local Authorities and landowners should be engaged on this issue to maximise the value of spaces for wildlife. The Superintendent informed Members that the City Corporation monitored and submitted representations against local planning applications. There was also ongoing monitoring work and an outreach programme led by the Heath’s Conservation Team and Ecologist including local allotments, neighbouring landowners, golf courses, etc.
· In response to a query (Clubs using facilities on the Heath) concerning the poor condition of the cricket pitch, Members were advised that the cricket squares and grass/turfing had been affected by the particularly wet autumn and winter and improvement works would take place in spring when the weather improved.
City Surveyors Cyclical Work Programme
· The Superintendent updated Members that a major investment had been secured for a 12-week programme of works which would be followed by the toilet refurbishment project.
East Heath Car Park (A DP5)
· Members were advised that funding had been secured for this project and tending companies were being approached. Resurfacing work was due to commence following the Whitsun Fair.
· North Fairground Site 2017/4346/P. Members were advised that the planning application appeal was dismissed by the Inspector. The Superintendent thanked the Heath & Hampstead Society and the London Borough of Camden for their support.
· Officers are investigating land use for clarity in the future as the regular interventions by the City Corporation are costly and time consuming.
Fishing – Hampstead and Highgate Angling Society (HAHAS) proposal.
· HAHAS are progressing with their proposal through the Ponds and Wetlands Plan and drawing in the recreational use and ecological concerns identified by Members. The results of a silt survey were pending which was measured against all ponds and would be presented at the Committee’s April meeting.
Hampstead Heath as case study for MSc at the Bartlett, UCL
· A workshop hosting MSc Sustainable Heritage students would take place on 28 January 2020 and it was hoped that this would start an ongoing collaboration with UCL to develop research on historic artefacts at the Heath.
· The Chairman chaired a Swim Forum meeting on 14 January 2020 and meetings have begun with individual swimming associations/groups officially starting the swimming review.
· It was noted that the heath and safety recommendations made by the HSC following the fatality in the Men’s Pond, e.g. increasing the number of lifeguards from two to three, were a key priority for the review and would be taken seriously by the City Corporation.
· Members were informed that all options were being considered and would all be put to the Swimming Forum on 4 February 2020 for feedback.
· The Heath & Hampstead Society were concerned that a fifth of the Heath’s budget was currently being used to subsidise swimming and was considered unfair to other activities. A position statement concerning the swimming review was made by the Society as follows:
o The Society will not contemplate a reallocation of funds from other parts of the Heath budget to support the increasing costs incurred by the tradition of free lifeguarded swimming.
o The Society considers that swimmers should pay – by season ticket or otherwise – for lifeguarded swimming.
o The Society believes the parties should explore how the long tradition of not charging for swimming can be maintained by enabling more un-lifeguarded swimming via a swimming club.
o The City should be mounting a forceful public relations campaign to urge people to pay, as being the ‘right thing to do’, rather than merely proposing new costly infrastructure (inter alia to keep swimmers out) and staff to enforce payment.
· Members were advised that in 2005 a self-policing charge was brought in, but this has had very poor compliance by swimmers to date (3.7% of swimmers).
· A Member (Hampstead Conservation Area Advisory Committee) stated that he swam in the Ponds every day and felt that everyone should pay in the same way a runner would pay to use the running track.
· It was agreed the Ponds were a great treasure of the Heath and that the use of communications was key to promoting the issues and reasoning for a review of the swimming facilities and encourage a change in attitude regarding non-payment. A Member (Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents' Association) added that it was not free to swim anywhere else so why should the City Corporation be expected to subsidise these costs.
· It was suggested that swimming clubs/life guarded versus non-lifeguarded ponds would make swimming for some more exclusive. It was agreed all swimming options needed to be accessible and the costs shared.
· A Member (South End Green Association) stated that swimmers would pay but it was not clear where you needed to pay. There was also confusion caused by people telling day visitors that they do not need to pay. It was not that there had been cases of antisocial behaviour by certain individuals when asked to pay.
· A number of Members considered the lack of technology to be the key barrier to compliance as most people did not carry cash. It was agreed that making paying easy, e.g. contactless payments, was key. However, a Member (Highgate Conservation Area Advisory Committee) voiced concern that contactless payments meant using cards/watches/phones and without storage facilities to store valuables, this posed a risk for theft.
· As the popularity of the Ponds had increased during heatwaves and hot summer months caused by climate change, a Member (Mansfield Conservation Area Advisory Committee & Neighbourhood Association Committee) wondered if there were any funding opportunities to support this change.
· A member of the public suggested a proposal to charge for fishing licences at the Ponds as an income generator.
· It was suggested (Highgate Conservation Area Advisory Committee) that there was a supply and demand issue with outdoor swimming caused by the closure of Lidos in other Local Authorities, e.g. Finchley and Muswell Hill, and that a campaign for restoration would lower the visitor numbers at the Heath.
· In response to a query concerning how to stop people swimming in the non-swimming Ponds, Officers confirmed that signage and reinforcement that it was not safe would be used. This was covered in the Comms Strategy.
· The Chairman thanked Members for their support and advised that feedback on the proposals made at the additional HHCC meeting on 9 March 2020 would be presented to the HHMC on 11 March 2020 for approval. The new processed would be implemented by 2 May 2020 for the start of the swim season.
· Members were informed that the Showmen’s Guild 2021 proposal seeking a longer Easter Fair and no Whitsun Fair plus a second event with the Affordable Art Fair would be presented to members at the next HHCC meeting.
Hampstead Heath Constabulary
· Officers confirmed that enforcement action was taken against an individual at the Men’s Pond whilst it was closed during investigations concerning the fatality the Pond. The individual was prosecuted and charged £1,100.
Waste & Recycling
· Officers confirmed that pending permission they would go to procurement for a mini refuse collection vehicle.
· A timber enclosure in forest green masking bins was planned to be constructed near the Hive.
· In response to a query concerning the new bins and recycling scheme, Members were advised that the waste figures were increasing significantly, especially at peak times, and solutions were currently being trialled to resolve this. New bin stations would be implemented allowing for lager bins at peak months and fly tipping hot spot bins have been removed. The new bins will not allow wine bottles or picnic waste in an attempt to encourage visitors to take their waste with them.
· With regards to water stations, Officers confirmed push bottle fountains would be available all year round.
· The Superintendent agreed to make enquires concerning the western pond fountain.
· A Member (Mansfield Conservation Area Advisory Committee & Neighbourhood Association Committee) raised concerns that the removal of bins and not allowing picnic waste would mean that littering would take place in the local neighbourhoods.
· A Member (Highgate Society) encouraged a sense of ownership for litter, e.g. a local schools litter picking initiative.
RESOLVED – That:-
· Members provide feedback on the Annual Work Programme 2020-21 (appendix 1);
· Members provide feedback following the verbal update on swimming;
· Members to provide feedback on the Keep Britain Tidy report appended to the report (appendix 2).