Report of the Superintendent of Hampstead Heath.
Members considered an update report of the Superintendent regarding Highgate Wood and the following comments were made:
· The Superintendent was conscious of staff fatigue after a difficult year and thanked all staff for their ongoing support and hard work. Thanks was echoed by Members of the Committee.
· In relation to the Constabulary, Members were informed that there was a recognisable change in how open spaces were being used with more people gathering in them socially. Gatherings as large as 80-100 of mainly young adults were experienced at the Heath throughout the summer and Rangers applied the four E’s approach of Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce to manage groups. The Constabulary continue to engage with the MET who have provided ongoing support to enforce Government guidelines.
· The Superintendent updated Members on four planning applications:
o Ivy House monopole. The application has been refused on the basis that the monopole and equipment would, by reason of their size, siting and appearance, appear as prominent and visually obtrusive features within the street scene and reduce the effective width of the pavement and would therefore have significant adverse impact on the character and visual amenities of the surrounding area.
o Boncara, 35 Templewood. A planning representation had been made regarding the basement and its impact on a nearby veteran tree.
o Jack Straws Castle. A planning representation was submitted by the City Corporation regarding the impact of massing, traffic and parking.
o Lido Temporary Fence. Members were advised that Camden had requested additional information concerning the City Corporation’s application for a temporary fence for three months per year for the Lido.
o The Water House. The works have now completed.
o The Garden House. The City Corporation has responded to the application concerning drainage concerns.
o Jack Straws Castle. It was confirmed that Camden London Borough Council refused the application.
o Telecoms Mast (outside Ivy House). Officers await the decision to the original application.
· Officers confirmed that the tender of Golders Hill Park Accessible Car Park planned to take place during summer 2020 was impacted by Covid-19 and the tender would need to be re-run.
· The Director of Open Spaces provided an overview of the Open Spaces picture advising that Covid had significantly impacted all departments in terms of finances and loss of income with an overall City Corporation deficit of £20m for the current financial year. It was noted that Officers were working hard to reduce this figure, e.g. Hampstead Heath had an anticipated deficit of £500k at the beginning of the lockdown but the Team had opened up income streams and found efficiencies to provide an almost balanced balance.
· The Director stressed that despite the tireless work of Officers, all Open Spaces were vulnerable before the pandemic and would remain vulnerable pending a likely second wave and lockdown. The Department was working to be more efficient in 2021/22 with target efficiencies of 12%. Providing services at a high level remained a priority.
· The Superintendent added that this would be tackled through a series of projects and programmes in combination in including a new licensing policy, events and fundraising opportunities and catering offer including a kiosk. A fees and charges report setting everything out would come to the January meeting.
· In response to a query from a Member (London Council for Recreation and Sport) concerning whether spending would be deferred until next year, Officers confirmed the Capital Programme had been affected with a number of projects now on hold pending review. The Department was now grouping and prioritising all of its projects to make bids more successful.
· With regards to fundraising, a Member (Highgate Society) noted that the Heath was surrounded wealthy property owners and suggested approaching them for possible donations as the Heath greatly added value to them and the value of their homes.
· The Director noted that a lot of people did not understand that the Heath was a charity and a communications approach was being developed to push this idea. It was hoped that by making the process easier for people to make donations, this would increase particularly in light of the Heath’s affluent locals.
· A Member (London Council for Recreation and Sport) felt a more holistic view was needed to promote the charity and requested that the Committee receive a report on the charity as a whole. It was acknowledged that charities were really struggling and therefore the approach needed to be right. It was suggested that the Superintendent become Executive Leader. Members were reminded that a full City Corporation Charity Review was currently underway which included the Heath.
· Following an enquiry by a Member (Representative of Clubs using facilities on the Heath) regarding possible central Government Covid support, the Director confirmed that as the Heath as a charity was not a Local Authority function and was subsequently not entitled to Local Authority support. As an employer, the furlough scheme was available for staff unable to undertake their core role.
· A Member wished to understand the intensity of use at the Heath and Highgate Wood by Forest Schools, i.e. the number of schools, where visiting, the location, amount paid, etc. The Superintendent advised that a short-term approach was currently in place but a new process was being worked up in line with the dog walking licensing scheme providing a more specialised approach including ecologist input.
RESOLVED – That Members provide feedback.