Agenda item

Superintendent's update

Report of the Superintendent of Hampstead Heath.


Members considered an update report of the Superintendent regarding Hampstead Heath and the following comments were made:


Covid response


·         The Superintendent stated that the overriding priority during the current lockdown was to keep the City Corporation’s Open Spaces open, safe and as accessible as possible. There had been an increase in the number of staff shielding and testing positive for Covid. The primary issue at the Heath remains the significantly increased footfall which has made it virtually impossible to carry out works due to social distancing. Only priority projects have continued early in the morning to reduce exposure of staff.




·         Members were informed that despite there being no New Year’s Eve fireworks display, Officers worked with partners across the Camden Borough to manage gatherings of approximately 500 people at the Parliament Hill viewpoint.


·         The Constabulary have continued their Covid response including antisocial behaviour, cycling and dog control using the 4 E’s approach of Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce.


·         An online assessment through the Civil Aviation Authority is now required concerning the use of drones and the Heath’s drone policy will be updated accordingly. Drones remain unpermitted at the Heath.


·         With regards to Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs), Members were advised that Officers were working across the Corporation to administer an FPN Scheme.


·         At the end of the year, the Corporation will lose access its current radio mast supplier and a change of radio system and new provider is being sought.


·         In response to a query from a Member (Highgate Society) concerning whether the mast could be removed, Officers agreed to enquire if this would become out of use and therefore be taken down.


Savernake Bridge


·         Members noted the existing and proposed plans, artists impressions and photographs for the new scheme provided in Appendix 1 which would realign the bins and posts and open up the space to make it more welcoming. New wooden fencing and gates would replace the current metal structures in line with the work to paths and entrances elsewhere at the Heath. The cost for the project would be £7k from the CWP local budget.


·         Officers are working in collaboration with Camden and Heath Hands to introduce cycle parking, bridge artwork and planter improvements.


·         A Member (Dartmouth Park Conservation Area Advisory Committee) noted that from the Camden side, there was no indication that the bridge came to the Heath and recommended introducing a finger point/notice board with a map to make this clear. It was also suggested that the nearby primary school could get involved with the planning.


·         A Member (Friends of Kenwood) felt this project was not a priority over other projects needed at the Heath and that the movement of the signpost was not necessary. Officers confirmed this movement would provide a better view and shield the Hive building. This was the last of four similar projects at four other entrances and was being led by Camden Council.


·         A Member stated that the Heath and Hampstead Society agreed with the improvements, planting and replacement to wooden fencing and gates.




·         The Superintendent noted a letter received from a local child (Appendix 2) regarding proposals to the Heath Extension Playground. Officers met with the child who successfully raised funds and discussed increasing the age, improving accessibility and bringing in a theme for the playground. A landscape architect has since been engaged and Officers are planning an online meeting to scope development of the playground, scheme, develop play principles around natural play and features, and the costs involved.


·         Members complimented Olivia on her hard work and saw this as a great example of how young people could get involved in the Heath. It was hoped this initiative could be built on to bring in young people on other projects.  


·         A Member (Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents' Association) voiced concern over the increase in age use for the playground as the space was designed to give small children a safe space to play. The Superintendent confirmed that the space was large, and the age would go up to 12 years.


·         In response to a question concerning the character of the equipment Officers confirmed this aligned with the Heath being natural and not coloured.


Health Connections


·         Members were advised that exploratory talks had taken place to develop an initiative to map and connect groups, activities, local doctors’ surgeries and charities to improve the health and wellbeing of the local community.


·         It was noted that the Sports Forum welcomed and supported the proposals.


·         A Member (Highgate Society) highlighted the elderly as an important group and queried if local resident/care homes could be included. The Chair noted that the Heath had mobility scooters that could be a helpful resource.


·         Officers hoped the initiative would bring lots of groups together in the Heath and the wider area, and “Give it a go” was seen as a good opportunity. It was noted that Hand Hands and Camden Council were heavily involved.


·         A Member (Barnet Mencap) highlighted social prescribers in GP practices. The Chair encouraged Members suggest any local connections that could be involved in Health Connections.


Professional Dog Walking


·         The Superintendent confirmed that correspondence had been received from professional dog walkers and dog walker employees which was followed by a helpful meeting in December with the Hampstead Professional Dog Walking Association.


·         Officers are now developing expressions of interest to develop more understanding of some of the issues. An online application process is in development and Officers are carrying out scenario planning.


Contractors & Maintenance


·         Concerning gas supply, Members were informed that the gas line needed replacing and this substantial project would take 6-8 weeks to complete starting in March. An update would follow.


·         The toilets at Parliament Hill have been replaced and works to the toilets at the Traditional Playground should have followed in January. Contractors aim to complete this work by 12 February.  


·         Works at the East Heath Carpark were due to start in February, but the very wet ground has delayed this project until late spring/early summer.


·         Funding has been sourced and investigations have begun this week concerning the Lido leak repairs. Further exploration will continue on Monday and it is hoped the leak has been identified.


Capital projects


·         The project concerning the accessibility, safety and security of the three Bathing Ponds and Lido has progressed to gateway 2 and the local swimming community will be consulted.


·         The Athletics Track Reconstruction project did not receive funding in this round. A project board was being developed to draw in funding for the track and build momentum. It was noted that the track was still compliant but was losing its sponginess.


·         The bid for the Pergola project to replace its timbers was unsuccessful.




·         Telecoms Mast (outside Ivy House). The appeal was dismissed on 12 January 2021.


·         108 South Hill Park. A decision by Camden Council is pending.


·         55 Fitzroy Park. Camden Council is still to determine the planning application.




·         The Leisure and Events Manager stressed the uncertainty and difficulties in planning and preparing any events for 2021 during the pandemic and reviewing planning applications. Officers remain flexible to try and plan events if and when they can go ahead.


·         With regards to the Affordable Art Fair, the planned March Easter Fair and Whitsun Fair are unable to take place and will be moved to September.


·         The Night of 10k event is in discussions with UK Athletics and will confirm on Friday if it can go ahead. It is unlikely due to the high number of spectators.


·         The English Nation Cross Country event on 22 May will not take place and is reviewing how this can go ahead in the autumn. They have agreed to invest in purchasing wild flower seed to assist with the restoration following the event.




·         The draft proposals (Appendix 3) lay out plans to commence session swimming at the Bathing Ponds from 29 March 2021 to avoid the facilities being overwhelmed during the Easter period. It was highlighted that these were not definite dates and was subject to Government advice.


·         Feedback from the Swimming and Sports Advisory Groups included reviewing the date of online booking to align with the Lido, to offer an open “all-comers” family session at the Lido, offer swim tests for young people, monitoring of the guidance for young people, and retaining cash payments.


Financial Implications


·         The situation has deteriorated since Christmas and an analysis of the December actuals is taking place to identify overspend. Income streams are currently very limited, and expenditure remains high to manage the high footfall being experienced at the Heath.


·         A Member (Highgate Society) congratulated Officers on the phone mast appeal outcome and requested that the appeal document be circulated.


·         Following the City Corporation’s consultation on the Planning White Paper, the Town Clerk agreed to follow up with the Remembrancer to provide an update at the next meeting on the next steps plus what the City Corporation was doing to raise awareness of the condition of its public open spaces and the need for Government to support their maintenance and restoration.


·         A Member (Highgate Society) noted changes to the draft London Plan which were required by the Minister and would result in weakening the protection of Green Belt and MOL and recommended that the City Corporation request clarification on these changes.


·         A Member (Friends of Kenwood) queried if the donate page on the Hampstead Heath website was a work in progress as the link only takes you to an email address. It was felt this needed more work to encourage donations.


·         The Director of Open Spaces confirmed the donations page was launched in December and people would now be able to donate to individual projects or make general donations on the website. This would take the donator to a giving form rather than an email address. A key aim was to get the message out to the public that the Heath was a charity and donations were slowly coming in.


·         It was noted that Heath hands and Kenwood House also had their own donations pages.


RESOLVED – That Members:-


·         Provide feedback on the Savernake Bridge outline design proposals (appendix 1);


·         Provide feedback on the proposed Swimming arrangement for 2021, as set out in appendix 3.

Supporting documents: