Agenda item

Resources for Change - Ponds Project Consultation Results


Steve Evison of Resources for Change introduced the report on the recent Ponds Project Information Giving and Non-Statutory Consultation Exercise, noting the exercise’s two key elements of sharing information to raise awareness of the project alongside consulting members of the public on their preferred option for the dams.

            Mr Evison noted that overall the achievements of the exercise had been comprehensive, with 4,000 persons having been contacted face-to-face on the Heath, and a further 800 persons contacted face-to-face at off-site stands such as that at Hampstead tube station. A further readership of 120,000 persons had been reached through local media and information cards had been delivered to 79,000 households. Furthermore, stakeholders had been proactively contacted by email and a series of guided walks had been offered on the Heath itself.

            Commenting on the information stands in particular, he noted that substantive face-to-face comments were more common at the stand located on the Heath itself, rather than those located off-site due to the fact persons at tube stations tended to prefer collecting hardcopy information rather than stopping to express an opinion. He added that for the number of persons that had been made aware of the project, the number of consultation responses received was relatively low. He noted that it was important to keep in mind that those with strong negative opinions were arguably more likely to express an opinion, with a significant number of persons who lacked a strong opinion or felt that the issue had been dealt with through the design process to date being less likely to engage with the consultation.

            He continued by noting that a reasonable number of persons were totally opposed to the project, and based their opposition on legal, engineering and data-quality grounds. Some persons suggested alternative design solutions, e.g. concentrating works  at either higher or lower ends of the pond chains; or that Thames Water improve sewage systems south of the Heath to cope with excess water in the event of a flood event. Some persons argued that better emergency response procedures be implemented, rather than improved dams.

            Mr Evison continued by outlining further themes that had emerged from the consultation responses. These included the broad preference for natural design solutions over ‘hard-engineering’, but that paths should be properly surfaced to ensure they were safe to walk on in the event of poor weather. Some concerns had been expressed over health and safety for the public – both adults and children – in the event of major works being carried out. Some respondents had focused on the need to preserve existing views on the Heath as much as possible – both ‘short’ (in close proximity to new dams) and ‘long’ (wider vistas from points overlooking new dams). Some respondents had commented on the potential the project offered to improve and enhance the environment of the Heath for wildlife, particularly around the Model Boating Pond.

            He added that not many consultation responses had been option-specific, but that some comments had expressed a general liking for the improvement of the Model Boating Pond on the Highgate Chain, including the creation of an artificial island. Responses for the Hampstead Chain had been even less option-specific, except for some requests for more information on the Catchpit. There was some appetite for alternative engineering designs, and for the information-flow around the project to continue. He concluded by noting that the exercise had been particularly notable for the number of people who had been given an awareness of the Ponds Project.

            The Superintendent noted that the information received through the information sharing and consultation process was very important and that it would assist Atkins in reaching a Preferred Design Solution.

            The Committee proceeded to discuss the report, with the following points being made:


·         Ellin Stein commented that the non-option-specific bias in consultation responses was probably due to poor visual information on the various options being provided. She added that the images provided needed to be clearer.

·         Richard Sumray agreed that the exercise had been useful in terms of information sharing, and that he was not surprised on the lack of option-specific feedback, given the alternative options were quite narrow. He added that it was important that it was communicated clearly how the feedback received had helped inform the Preferred Design.

·         Susan Nettleton agreed, noting that the consultation responses received seemed to be balanced and that feedback on how these informed the project was important.

·         Colin Gregory said he welcomed the information sharing aspect of the exercise. He expressed disappointment that the report did not discuss how alternative themes could be considered – it gave the impression that the exercise was simply ‘tick-box’ in its approach.

·         The Chairman suggested that there should be a mechanism to provide feedback on the opinions raised.

·         Ian Harrison suggested that the City of London identify the main themes expressed in the consultation responses and respond to these on its website, and think of ways in which to communicate this feedback to the wider general public.

·         In response to a query from Susan Rose regarding the timetable of the project from here on, the City Surveyor replied that the consultation feedback would be incorporated into the report on the Preferred Solution currently being drafted by Atkins.

·         In response to a query from John Hunt over the term ‘non-statutory consultation’, the Ponds Project and Management Support Officer replied that this was intended to ensure the process was distinct from statutory consultation that took place during processes such as planning applications. The Director of Open Spaces confirmed that it was to make clear there was no legal requirement for the consultation to take place.

·         Richard Sumray suggested that the local media be used to communicate feedback to the public.

·         The Ponds Project and Management Support Officer commented that improved images would be provided to the PPSG, and that whilst the project timetable from here on was indeed tight, Atkins had been provided with the consultation results as soon as they had been drafted and therefore work was well underway to incorporate the comments into the Preferred Design. Thanks were due to the staff who had manned the consultation stands during the consultation period.

·         Michael Hammerson commented that it was important to make clear in any feedback that the opportunity to comment further on the project would come in the statutory planning consultation phase.


Steve Evison left at this point of the meeting.



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