Report of the Superintendent of Hampstead Heath.
Members considered an update report of the Superintendent regarding Hampstead Heath and the following comments were made:
Corona virus response
· The Superintendent was delighted at the Team’s efforts to reopen on 29 March which went smoothly but coincided with warm weather. This led to large gatherings, some AOB and significant litter which was challenging, but the work of volunteers had been a huge support to staff.
· A Member (CG) saw litter to be the primary concern as they moved into summer which was a national problem across all Open Spaces. It was noted the City Corporation was engaging with the Keep Britain Tidy campaign, but the Member queried if there was Government scope to emphasise a wider remit to the public of the benefits of taking litter home.
· The Superintendent confirmed the City Corporation were linked with the Keep Britain Tidy campaign on initiatives and adopting a poster campaign, plus the Director of Open Spaces continued to link with other national groups.
· The Constabulary continue to deal with ASB issues, large gatherings and littering and have developed stronger links with the MET Police and colleagues in the Camden Community Team to manage this. Ran example includes the recent closure of Primrose Hill to manage ASB on Fridays and Saturdays.
· Progress is being made regarding the introduction of FPNs with Officers looking at byelaws of focus and deciding on a paper or electronic system. A Member (Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents' Association) recommended including cycling to enforce the cycling rules.
· An update will come to the next meeting concerning body worn video cameras since it was introduced as an enforcement measure.
· A Member (London Council for Recreation and Sport) voiced the need for Officers to use deterrents to make people aware that the Constabulary will clamp down on ASB and has powers to do so. Members were advised that Officers would use the FPN scheme following an initial warning.
· It was noted that in the past, a Working Group was formed to develop a strategy to get more people on the Heath but now it was experiencing the opposite issue. It was recommended that this strategy be re-examined to assess whether the new high numbers required new action.
150th Anniversary of the Hampstead Heath Act
· Members voiced appreciation for the four biodiversity boards; however, a Member (Friends of Kenwood) was unhappy that one now blocked a key viewpoint and hoped its position would be reconsidered.
· In response to suggestions from a Member (Mansfield Conservation Area Advisory Committee & Neighbourhood Association Committee) relating to a possible performance event and an evening of readings from local writers, Members were encouraged to contact Paul Maskell with all ideas.
· A Member (Highgate Society) recalled the H&HS centenary 4 page spread on the history of the society and suggested something similar for the history of the Heath and its management.
East Heath Car Park
· Members were informed that works had commenced, and the plan was to have carpark open in time for the Whitsun bank holiday event.
· Members were informed that plans for the Adventure Playground, Vale and Preachers were going well with local children and key stakeholders involved in plans.
· The Superintendent drew Member’s attention to the design brief for the Heath Extension (appendix 2) which had been shared with Olivia and her friends receiving positive feedback. It was noted that Officers were planning to form a working group for this project as a fundraising opportunity.
· A Member was happy to join the working Group and felt the draft brief reflected the criteria and natural design requests.
· It was acknowledged how well the work was going regarding Savernake Bridge.
· Officers agreed to follow up with Camden regarding a previous Member request for Camden to incorporate a finger point sign. A Member (Hampstead Conservation Area Advisory Committee) also suggested asking Camden to include move up (right) and down (left) around for cyclists.
· The Chair gave thanks to the HV Arts foundation who worked with 90 children to produce art over Easter Holidays plus funding received from Camden, the project had received a positive response from the public.
· The Superintendent advised that emphasis was being made to provide cycle parking on the periphery of Heath. A helpful meeting had taken place with Camden regarding highway docking and stands Officers were reviewing options to support bike parking.
· Following on from previously discussed non-car use, and a preference towards walking/cycling to school to cut down congestion and pollution, Members were advised that a walking bus scheme and ‘Cycle Bursts’.
· A Member (Hampstead Conservation Area Advisory Committee) strongly objected, highlighting the already increased number of people using Heath, and was concerned that the routes and bursts of people would increase the problems already being experienced. The Member felt that the visibility of more bikes would lead to people to assume that it was ok to cycle at the Heath. There was also a concern that this pilot could ultimately lead to bad publicity for the City Corporation.
· A Member (London Council for Recreation and Sport) disagreed feeling the pilot would be positive as it would be good for children’s health and could possibly reduce traffic in the area as Hampstead had the highest number of schools in Europe.
· It was noted that the H&HS considered a similar concept in great detail years ago and concluded with the City Corporation that there be no further extension of cycling on Heath.
· Members agreed the caterpillar scheme was a nice idea but were not convinced it would work in practice as it would encourage/be taken advantage of by other commuters. It was endorsed that Camden needed to provide safe cycle routes around the Heath.
· Other Members echoed similar views concerning the dangers of school children travelling downhill with increased people and bikes/scooters would be too much traffic on Heath.
· The Chair highlighted that this was only limited to the extension to lido path and was not a free for all on cycling.
· Members felt that evidence and more information regarding the estimates of numbers/usage would be needed. A Member (Highgate Society) also suggested a survey of pedestrians that use the path at the relevant times to provide feedback.
· It was noted that there could be extra costs involved for City Corporation in terms of policing and monitoring the scheme and Members agreed that a contribution should be requested from Camden.
· The Superintendent agreed to share all feedback with Camden and would come back with a detailed response.
Draft Terms of Reference for the Hampstead Heath Sports and Wellbeing Forum
· The Chair advised the new Forum would give a more strategic view providing opportunities for more groups to be involved. it was clarified that nothing was confirmed, it was simply felt a governance review was overdue considering how everything worked. This would continue to be reviewed but it was hoped the suggested proposals would benefit the Forum.
· The Town Clerk read a statement on behalf of a Member (Representative of Clubs using facilities on the Heath) who was unable to attend the meeting in relation to the proposals:
1. I can understand and accept the broadening of the remit of the forum to include more general wellbeing and to formalise membership. This is in line with the general drift of Government policy and recognises the wider benefits of sport and physical activity. It also aligns with the strategies of the City. My concern is that just about every aspect of Heath business is about improving wellbeing and there is a risk of diluting the focus of the forum. The new extended membership (although welcome) will make meetings lengthy and difficult to manage, let alone give a headache in where to accommodate them.
2. Added to this, I now understand that the plan is to do away with the swim forum. That is a mistake in my book. There is (and always will be) so much to discuss around swimming that the large number of issues would naturally migrate to being discussed at the sports forum. It will dominate business and marginalise the other attendees. I think there is a permanent role for a swim forum and a temporary role for a track forum (around the management of major projects etc).
3. Most importantly though I have a strong view that the sports forum should not be chaired by the City. It is after all an advisory forum advising an advisory Consultative Committee. In that sense it is a layer below that of the Consultative Committee and is a means by which sporting issues can be discussed and brought to the Consultative Committee. It is necessary because there is no coherent or formal organisation representing sport on the Heath, such as there is for the respective resident associations and interest groups that also sit on the Consultative Committee. It is almost tantamount to saying the City should chair the meetings of those groups represented on the Consultative Committee. As such I think it is right and proper that one of the sports representatives on the Consultative Committee, chair the sports forum. The City should be present, and it is enormously helpful that it provides administrative support.
· A Member (London Council for Recreation and Sport) was supportive of the inclusion of wellbeing, but not in proposed format as the move to more representatives at all meeting would prevent strategic planning. A smaller group of no more than 15 people working on strategic issues to feed into the HHCC was recommended. It was noted that swimming has six representatives and the Member felt it was essential to maintain a separate Swim Forum to discuss their issues.
· BW suggested previously having an annual forum that includes all relevant 35+ groups to meet.
· Another Member (Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents' Association) felt that the proposal in its current format was problematic as everything involving the Heath from a human perspective could be regarded as relating to wellbeing. The Member welcomed the concept to widen the Forum, its operation and the way it works with the HHCC agreeing it should go further than sports and recreation, to included contact with nature and conservation of the natural environment which needed addressing.
· The Deputy Chairman felt it was important to discuss operational governance and strategic items noting the successful way in which strategic and decision requests were funnelled up through the Sports Forum. The Deputy Chairman ultimately agreed with the position that the myriad of sports and wellbeing should be discussed in one space and supported the proposals.
· In response to a comment from a Member (Heath and Hampstead Society) that a membership of 33 people was unworkable, the Chair clarified that a membership of 33 people was not the intension and the thought process behind the proposal was the significant swim engagement last year plus business as usual at meetings. A more holistic and fair approach to discussions and what is available at the Heath was the ultimate desire.
· The Superintendent added that there had been lots of comments received regarding supporting cap investments and work to promote health connections and social subscribing. With broader representation, this would help to create events themes, e.g. women in sport, mental health. Hearing support for this, needs clarity in role of HHCC. Not intending for 33 people, mid 20s. need breath for a more strategic approach. Could be doing more on heath.
Forest School Licencing
· Officers continue to actively engage and monitor input through short term licenses whilst developing a more holistic scheme to licence the small carrying capacity of schools.
· Members were concerned regarding the impact of forest schools and it was noted that the forest schools at Kenwood have had a noticeable impact on area.
· It was queried how the specified areas selected for forest schools were assessed and a Member (Highgate Society) recommended including a condition in licenses that a survey of areas before and after be carried out to monitor and discuss impact as it happens.
· Members were advised that Officers had significant learning from Highgate Wood where there are lots of schools. The new licence would aim to prevent impact on singular areas through the monitoring of tree safety and compaction to inform where can operate.
· The Heath & Hampstead Society representative offered to support the licensing process.
· Officers confirmed that lots of enquiries for forest school applications had been received and were being advised that they were oversubscribed and to apply next year.
· Jack Straws Castle (2020/1828/P). Members were advised that the hearing decision would be made tomorrow.
· Murphy’s Yard. Officers attended a recent workshop, and Members were invited to join.
· 55 Fitzroy Park (2018/3672/P). The City Corporation recently submitted further comments regarding drainage concerns.
Annual Work Programme (AWP)
· The Superintendent advised that the projects had been updated and written feedback from Members was welcomed.
· The Superintendent provided an update on projects progressing through the AWP including signage, further repairs for erosion to the dams and the suite of toilet repairs. City Surveyors were thanked for their assistance on the Lido leak works.
· A Member (Friends of Kenwood) requested the status on the drainage works due to some bad smells in the area and hoped there were no spillages. The Superintendent confirmed the results were all satisfactory, but as water was low currently so there was less movement in water.
RESOLVED - With two hours having elapsed since the start of the meeting, in accordance with Standing Order No. 40 the Committee agreed at this point to extend the meeting by up to thirty minutes.
· Members noted the first swimming annual report and the feedback circulated from the KLPA. The Superintendent emphasised the challenging year for all but looked forward to the summer swim season and welcomed all feedback.
· A Member (London Council for Recreation and Sport) felt it was difficult to assess 2020/21 on charges due to COVID and recommended using this year rather than 2020.
· The Chair was keen for an annual reporting to be totally transparent and agreed they should await a normal year at normal levels. It was noted that over 3,000 season tickets were sold highlighting the popularity of cold-water swimming.
· The Director stated that the Charity ended the 2020/21 financial year successfully; there was a gross expenditure of £6m but saw large fluctuations in loss of income plus additional costs re: COVID-19 and litter which had a significant impact. The Director thanked the Team for managing the budget carefully during a challenging year. New initiatives included the online donation scheme which had launched across all Open Spaces and had already received over £300k in donations since going live in March. Officers had also secured change in the corporate regulations to retain donations to the Charity, which would allow for funds to be ringfenced for Charity’s use. It was hoped through the 150th anniversary celebrations that more donations, gifts and legacies would be achieved ensuring contributions for future.
RESOLVED – That Members:-
· Provide feedback on the Heath Extension Playground Design Brief (appendix 2);
· Provide feedback on the concept of ‘cycle bursts’ utilising specific routes on the Heath to help reduce traffic congestion linked to the local school run, as set out in paras 14-16;
· Provide feedback on the draft Terms of Reference for the Hampstead Heath Sports and Wellbeing Forum (appendix 3);
· Provide feedback on the Annual Work Programme - Projects (appendix 5);
· Provide feedback on the draft Annual Swimming Review 2020/21 (appendix 6) as set out in para 31.