The Committee received a verbal update from the Superintendent relating to issues and matters concerning the Covid-19 pandemic. The following comments were made:
· The Superintendent noted that there were some changes following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday 10 May 2020. However, health and keeping staff and the public safe remained of significant importance and it was acknowledged how important the Heath remained to the physical and mental health of all that used it.
· Two carparks have been opened (Jack Straw and Lido) and negotiations were ongoing to open the East Heath parking.
· With regards to staff, the emergency roster continues to be reviewed to protect staff, but the next stage is due to be implemented.
· The Team are in the process of rolling out changes including new signage and where people are permitted to cycle. The new style dog bins are also being introduced. Messaging advising the public to take waste home has received a good response and will continue.
· Members were advised that the Cafés have opened offering a takeaway service only which had received a mixed response. Officers continue to liaise with tenants and how the City Corporation can support them.
· The Constabulary have continued to engage with people not adhering to social distancing regulations. An ongoing matter has been dealing with use of the Heath as a public sex environment and the Constabulary continue to work with the MET, LGBT+ stakeholders and the local community to address this risk.
· High winds on 10 May 2020 caused a number of trees to be blown over or lose branches. These have been made safe and will remain where they have naturally fallen.
· Contractors have today begun their second OPM spray of trees. Contractors will resume works to the public toilets and repairs to the paths and fences on 25 May 2020.
· With regards to events, an application has been received from the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) moving the planned five-day event in May to 18-22 November 2020. The Leisure and Events Manager remains in talks with the Race Director of the Night of the 10k event which has been postponed. A request has been made for the Heath to host an event on 5 June 2020 which awaits ratification from UK Athletics.
· The Chairman thanked Officers for their hard work managing the extra unprecedented workload due to the pandemic.
· A Member (Highgate Conservation Area Advisory Committee) was concerned that people following the advice to take waste home were abandoning their rubbish (including dog waste and used nappies) on the route home which was particularly affecting residents living on the Heath fringe and surrounding lanes. The Member felt that there needed to be liaison with Camden Council to address this health issue. The Superintendent confirmed Officers were working with the Camden and Barnet boroughs to deal with any littering hot spots. It was noted that there would also be liaison with local businesses selling takeaways concerning their packaging.
· In response to a comment regarding ice cream venders, the Superintendent confirmed that unlicensed traders were being reported to the relevant Local Authority.
· A Member (London Council for Recreation and Sport) was concerned that the hot weather had caused the land to dry and was damaging the path verges over time along with the increased footfall. The Superintendent advised that compaction and erosion was covered under the AWP and would continue to be addressed.
· Members agreed that more prominent signage was needed concerning cycling at all entrance points. The Superintendent confirmed this would happen and lifeguards had been redeployed to increase patrols to engage with cyclists.
· A Member (London Council for Recreation and Sport) was concerned by the large groups visiting the Heath but ignoring social distancing protocol. Members were advised this was the biggest challenge of lockdown and that staff were trying to engage with large groups and had encountered some verbal assault by a small handful of people.
· In response to a query regarding the closure of Kenwood House, a Member (Friends of Kenwood) stated that 86% of all English Heritage staff nationally were currently furloughed and creating a huge resource stretch. There were also issues managing members of the public at the beginning of the lockdown. An update on Kenwood House is due to be issued on its website on Wednesday.
· A Member (Highgate Society) enquired if, like Highgate Wood, the Heath woods was experiencing erosion/compaction from people avoiding main pathways and instead using the wooded areas in an attempt to avoid other people. Officers confirmed this issue was not as prominent at the Heath, but any damage would be repaired.