Mary Powell, right, and Maria Donaque with campaigners who handed the petition to the Town Hall
Published: 15 August, 2014
by DAN CARRIER
MORE than 11,000 people have signed a petition calling on the City of London to cancel its controversial £17m project to rebuild dams at Hampstead Heath ponds.
Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association and the Men’s Pond Association handed in the petition to the Town Hall on Monday as the fight to block the proposals continues.
Organiser Mary Powell said the work would fundamentally change the look of the Heath and would not prevent possible flooding in nearby streets as has been claimed.
She said: “I am astounded by the level of support the campaign is getting. We knew that many people felt strongly about this, but the number of signatures we have gained is far beyond what I expected.
“This project will cause large disfigurement on the Heath that it would take many years to recover from. We are not convinced by the risks the City and engineers say make the scheme important.
“The threat of such a severe storm is an extreme idea and even if there was a major flood it would still affect people living downstream, regardless of if this work is done.
“This campaign has been about saving Hampstead Heath for future generations to enjoy. It is one of London’s most valued open spaces and has been protected in its natural state since the 19th century.”
Camden Council planning officers are considering the project, while the Heath and Hampstead Society is taking the City to the High Court where senior judges will review the legal basis for the work.
HAMPSTEAD Heath superintendent Bob Warnick has said he understands there are concerns about the scheme, especially over landscape and wildlife.
“That’s why this project is being designed with the landscape at its heart,” he said. “We are improving water quality and developing new areas for aquatic plants in the ponds, allowing species that depend on this habitat to thrive.”
He pointed out that three of the ponds are so big they are legally classed as large reservoirs. “Our government-appointed supervising engineer has advised that they need to have improved earth dams so they don’t fail during a major rainstorm,” he added.
“We had some serious over-topping of the earth dams as recently as 2010, which resulted in soil being pulled away from the existing dam during a relatively small storm – and this is a risk which we need to take seriously.
“The ponds are centuries old, man-made and are holding back a large amount of water. They sit above a big residential centre and they need to have the normal UK dam safety industry standard applied because of the threat to life that a dam breach could bring.”