Report of the Superintendent of Hampstead Heath.
The Superintendent updated the committee on recent activity undertaken as part of the Hampstead Heath Ponds Project. He noted that site clearance work had started during February 2015 and that felled timber had predominantly been removed from the site, but some had been kept in situ to prevent tractor damage to the ground surface. The timber was being used to create deadwood habitats, or was being milled.
He went on to note that he had met with the Ponds Project Stakeholder Group (PPSG) at the Stock Pond to hear their concerns at the felling of a group of trees on its south west corner. The PPSG had requested the decision be reviewed in favour of a box culvert which, whilst allowing five trees to be retained, would entail the construction of a visible concrete structure which would not be in keeping with the character of the pond or the Heath. The request had been submitted to the Hampstead Heath Ponds Project Board which reviewed the pros and cons of each option and decided to continue with the original proposal of felling the trees to create a grass lined spillway to the west of the dam, and a decision letter had been issued to that effect.
The Superintendent went on to add that the Community Working Group (CWG), a forum established by the section 106 agreement, had met for the first time on 23 February, and that a member of the Highgate Society was now a CWG member. The CWG would meet monthly, with the next meeting being held on 23 March. Going forward it was likely Monday evening meetings would be avoided as this clashed with Camden Council meetings that local ward Councillors were obliged to attend.
The Superintendent noted that the aim was to keep two ponds open at any one time during the project, which would entail intensive use of the Mixed pond during the winter. The swimming opening times of the ponds had been consolidated from 24 separate times down to 7, which had increased swimming time available by five hours.
The Superintendent added that the construction contractor BAM Nuttall had begun constructing its work base within the Kenwood Nursery Yard. He concluded by noting that a female swan on the Highgate chain of ponds had injured its leg and was being treated at an animal hospital for around a month. In the meantime the male swan was being monitored by staff for aggressive behaviour.
Jeremy Wright expressed surprise that the update report did not reference and summarise the judicial review that had taken place since the Consultative Committee last met.
In response to a query from Ellin Stein regarding the increase in vehicle traffic on the Heath during the construction phase, the Superintendent replied that there had been no change to the agreed CMP, and that stakeholders would be consulted on any changes when appropriate. In response to a suggestion from Mary Port that a banksman be employed, the Superintendent replied that vehicle movements would be subject to risk assessments and method statements. With the aim of restricting vehicle movements to between 1000-1500 during the day so as not to conflict with school times.
Ellin Stein commented that the felling of mature trees around the Stock Pond appeared to more than was planned, and had been the subject of a letter to the Ham & High last week. She asked whether there were any similar surprises in store during the course of the project. The Superintendent noted that the Chairman had replied to the Ham & High letter that Ellin Stein had referenced, and that the felling of the Stock Pond trees had been the subject of a discussion with the PPSG, and that there had been no subsequent change of plan. The PPSG had asked for a review of the decision to fell the trees. This review had taken place, and the Project Board had decided to proceed with the original plan to fell the trees to make way for a spillway.
Susan Rose commented that the level of brush clearance around the ponds was disconcerting. Their appearance now was too municipal and tidy. The Superintendent replied that this was a consequence of the preparation works and would help prevent any nesting birds from coming to harm when the construction phase began. Susan Rose added that she felt there had been too much clearance of brush around the Ladies’ Pond, to which the Superintendent replied that the clearance work was necessary prelude to construction of the spillway.