Agenda item

Gateway 4c - Detailed Design: Hampstead Heath Ponds Project

Joint Report of the Director of Built Environment and the Director of Open Spaces.


Please note that Appendices 2, 3 and 4 are part of a Supplementary Pack.



The Chairman introduced a joint report of the Director of Open Spaces and the Director of the Built Environment regarding the Gateway 4c – Detailed Design of the Hampstead Heath Ponds Project. He explained the City of London’s Gateway project process and the structure of the report and its appendices.

            The Director of the Built Environment noted that the report provided an overview of the current stage of the project. He added that, given no clear preference had been expressed for any of the options that had been presented during the non-statutory consultation and information giving stage, officers had based their recommendation for the detailed design stage on the fundamental principles of the project, such as the desire to minimise tree loss and reduce where possible the overall increase in height of the dams.

            The Ponds Project and Management Support Officer provided an update on the trees “at risk” in order to reflect the most up to date picture emerging from the detailed design work. Currently it was forecast that 15 Category C trees were at risk at the Kenwood Ladies Pond rather than 12; it was also likely that the trees “at risk” at Highgate Number 1 Pond would increase and it would also be necessary to carry out some coppicing to provide access for engineering equipment; furthermore 5 rather than 4 Category C trees were at risk at the Viaduct Pond.  The City continued to work with Atkins to reduce the numbers of trees “at risk” at the Stock Pond – which reflected the particular concerns of the Ponds Project Stakeholder Group.  

            Richard Sumray commented that these numbers represented an increase beyond that had been foreseen and therefore expressed concern over the potential for tree loss to increase further. In response, the Director of the Built Environment replied that the City of London continued to work with Atkins to minimise tree loss as far as possible. He commented that the detail of the final design was by no means fixed and therefore it was possible the tree loss could be reduced in due course.

            Gaye Henson expressed concern at the proposed timeline, which had works beginning in spring 2015, which would clash with the nesting season on the Heath. In reply the Superintendent commented that any tree works would be carried out in January and February 2015, ahead of the nesting season, and that spring 2015 would be the start-date for ground works.

            Helen Payne expressed concern over the wording of the section that outlined Enabling Works, noting that these would be a waste of time and resources if the outcome of a judicial review meant that they were ultimately unnecessary. The Director of the Built Environment replied that the City of London Corporation would not proceed with any works without planning permission. Helen Payne added that a budget of £500,000 for enabling works seemed excessive. In response the Director of the Built Environment replied that the budget was intended to give him the flexibility to ensure all necessary enabling works were carried out in good time.

            Jeremy Wright noted that the committee was being asked to provide comment and advice on a report that would ultimately go to the Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park Committee for decision. He expressed disappointment therefore that the committee had not been granted access to the second Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) referenced in the committee report. He added that the committee report indicated that a Flood Risk Assessment would be made available to the London Borough of Camden when the City of London Corporation submitted its planning application – therefore it should have also been submitted to the committee for its information and consideration.

            In reply the Director of the Built Environment noted that the QRA was not an essential document in terms of decision making and would not add any further substantive detail that had not already been provided to members. The first QRA had been helpful in identifying the risk of dam failure, the most likely failure mode, and that a failure would cause unacceptable risk to life, but that once this was established then in accordance with the engineering guidance the dams had to be designed so as to be able to resist the Probable Maximum Flood.

            Jeremy Wright stated that the first QRA had been very helpful and therefore the second QRA would no doubt be similarly helpful. He queried the reluctance of the City of London Corporation to share the second QRA with the committee given the published timeline indicated that it should have been drafted by this point of the project. He mentioned the fact that the City of London Corporation had failed, at an earlier point of the project, to provide the Heath & Hampstead Society with responses to over 20 questions regarding the QRA, including the basis of the potential for 1,400 fatalities caused by dam failure.

            The Director of the Built Environment replied that the flowchart included with the committee report was wrong in terms of when the second QRA would be made available. It would be more accurate to note that the City of London would carry out a second QRA on the preferred option, which would not be possible until the decision to proceed had been made by both the Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park Committee and the Project Sub (Policy and Resources) Committee.

            Susan Rose expressed disappointment that the section on traffic movements ignored people who lived in immediate proximity to the Heath, given that many of the roads involved were narrow and had poor sight lines. Moreover she expressed concern that at this late stage it was still unclear over where BAM Nuttall’s main base would be located during the course of the project.

            In response the Superintendent noted that BAM Nuttall was still drawing up its proposals on issues such as traffic management following a meeting with the Ponds Project Stakeholder Group. He noted that officers were aware of and understood the concerns expressed and therefore were requesting that BAM Nuttall address these through measures such as the use of smaller vehicles, and early delivery times.

            Susan Rose commented that residents had a low opinion of the London Borough of Camden’s ability to enforce Construction Management Plans (CMPs) and therefore the Corporation and its contractors would need to provide more than honourable commitments.

            Ian Harrison agreed, noting that the London Borough of Camden had a poor track record of enforcing Traffic Management Plans in particular, and therefore if residents could not rely on Camden it would be necessary to rely upon the City. In response the Director of the Built Environment said that he was happy to give that assurance, particularly given the track record of minimal interruption achieved by BAM Nuttall in its recent exploratory surveys of the Ponds and their immediate setting.

            In response to a query from Ian Harrison, Jeremy Wright confirmed it was the intention of the Heath & Hampstead Society to launch a judicial review of the Ponds Project if the decision was made to proceed with a planning application. Ian Harrison therefore queried whether the planning application would proceed in the event of a judicial review being launched. The Chairman noted that this was a question for the London Borough of Camden rather than the Corporation.

            The Chairman went on to note that the Secretary of the Heath & Hampstead Society, Marc Hutchinson, was present in the public gallery and invited him to address the committee on the topic of the proposed judicial review if he so wished.

            Marc Hutchinson confirmed that a judicial review of the Ponds Project would be sought as soon as reasonably practicable depending upon the Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park Committee’s decision on the project on 9 June. He confirmed that the City and Society had agreed to request expedition, and if this request was successful, it could be expected that a hearing would take place in October or November 2014.

            The Director of the Built Environment noted that a judicial review would not in itself be a reason to halt the planning application, but nevertheless the City of London Corporation would take a judgment over whether to submit the application in the event of a judicial review being launched.

            Ellin Stein queried the relevance of ensuring the dams did not fail, given the level of surface flooding downstream envisaged would reach its full extent six hours before the dams were forecast to fail in the event of a major storm. In reply the Director of the Built Environment noted that the key driver of the project was the need to ensure the dams were not at risk of failure and met the requirements of Institution of Civil Engineer’s guidance rather than to mitigate the impact of flooding downstream.

            Richard Sumray queried the purpose of carrying out a second QRA given the low importance attached to it by the Director of the Built Environment. The Director of the Built Environment replied that the commitment to carry one out had been made at the start of the project and therefore the Corporation intended to carry it out. Richard Sumray commented that, the reservations of the committee aside (which he felt would be resolved in the event of a judicial review), the two proposed options seemed sensible. 

            Jeremy Wright drew the committee’s attention to the list of documents that the Corporation intended to submit alongside its planning application, and queried why not even drafts of these were available given the planning application date was only four weeks away. He added that the Heath & Hampstead Society could not support either option outlined in the report. He continued by expressing reservations over tree loss particularly at Stock Pond, the loss of a lime tree, the creation of a wetland area below the Catchpit, and the proposal to create an island in the Model Boating Pond.  He also suggested that there should be a greater curve in the culvert at Hampstead Number 2 Pond to protect the London Plane trees, if possible.

            In response to Jeremy Wright’s comment regarding the availability of planning documents the Director of the Built Environment replied that the documents had not yet been completed. The Superintendent, in response to concerns over tree loss, reiterated that officers would continue to work with Atkins to ensure this was kept to a minimum.

            In response to an observation from Susan Rose over the need to have a healthily cynical attitude towards the chosen contractors, the Director of the Built Environment noted that Atkins and BAM Nuttall were well aware of the sensitivity of the project. He added that BAM Nuttall had been through a rigorous tender process and were chosen on the basis of their suitability for the project, rather than cost.

            Colin Gregory noted that, in the event of the project proceeding as envisaged, it would be useful to emphasise the guiding principles set out in paragraph 44 of the committee report. He added that he hoped that the relations between the Heath & Hampstead Society and the City of London Corporation would remain amicable and constructive in their bid to resolve their differences of opinion over the project.

            The Director of the Built Environment noted that the City of London Corporation had always been content to engage in academic debate with the Heath & Hampstead Society over the impact of dam failure and surface water flooding, but this could not be allowed to detract from what it saw as its statutory duty to ensure the dams conformed with legislatory requirements. He noted that during the course of the City’s dialogue with the Heath & Hampstead Society, consideration had been given to a “Part 8” application.  However the Society had not responded to the City’s questions about this procedure and had continued to hold the threat of Judicial Review should this procedure not result in the outcome sought by the Society.  The City was therefore not inclined to follow this route.   Against this context the Corporation had no choice but to proceed whilst being as inclusive and open to consultation as possible.

            Susan Nettleton expressed concerns over the impact to the Catchpit posed by the proposals. She believed the character of that area would change significantly and the visual impact would be most marked from the western approaches. The Director of the Built Environment agreed, but noted that work on the Catchpit was being carried out to ensure there was a lesser impact on other areas of the Highgate Chain.


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