Why is work needed on Hampstead Heath ponds?
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Hampstead Heath is fortunate in having about 30 beautiful and much-loved ponds. View an aerial map of the ponds. (632kb) Although they look natural, most are formed by dams which are up to 300 years old.
The City of London Corporation, who manage the Heath, have been told by a dam inspector, who reports to the Government, that work is necessary to ensure that in major storms the dams do not break, causing flooding.
The Heath dams, while structurally sound, cannot currently cope even with the size of flood that occurs once in every 25 years, but which could arrive tomorrow or the day after. Such a flood, while rare could have severe repercussions for local people.
A Hampstead Heath dam failed during a rain storm that skirted the Heath in 1975. If that storm had been centred on the Heath, the consequences would have been even more severe. It is likely that more dams would have collapsed, with more severe flooding in surrounding built-up residential areas.
The data behind this necessary work has been made public. There is legislation in place to ensure the safety of the dams which the City must follow and, as stewards of the Heath, the City has a responsibility to minimise the risk to Heath users and communities who live near the ponds. The City must also adhere to the 1871 Hampstead heath Act which is in place to protect the Heath as a natural habitat. A balance must be struck between the interests of safety and preserving the much loved landcape.
The City has appointed a Design Team to manage the engineering, landscaping, planning and ecological aspects of the work. An independent Strategic Lanscape Architect has also been appointed to challenge designs if necessary. He works closely with a group of stakeholders who are members of the public representing Heath users, local interest groups and residents associations.
Principles and opportunities
A project of this size will involve engineering work but experts in landscaping will work alongside engineers to make sure the work blends with the protected Heath lanscape. Dam engineers will provide the essential elements to ensure safety.
The principles of the 1871 Hampstead Heath Act, to preserve as far as may be the natural aspect of the Heath, will be at the heart of the scheme; a key aspect will be to minimise as far as possible the visual impact on the Heath.
The absolute bare minimum objective is that the scheme will have a long-term neutral effect on Heath wildlife.
With imagination and collaborative thinking we believe that there will be substantial long-term wildlife gains through creation of new habitats and opportunities for key species.
We will put in place measures to improve water quality and strive to meet the Water Bathing Directives.
We will take this opportunity, in consultation with user groups to enhance existing facilities for pond users and Heath visitors.
We will carry out the work as sensitively as possible, in liaison with Heath users and local residents, to ensure minimum disruption to Heath life.
We will investigate opportunities to ‘win’ materials from the Heath to strengthen existing dams, creating new habitats for wildlife and reducing traffic movements.
The City of London and local groups need to work together with consultants and contractors to protect the integrity of the Heath and to make improvements for visitors.
Future generations must be safe from the threat of flooding and be able to admire what this generation managed to achieve for the Hampstead Heath landscape, wildlife and recreation through the opportunities presented by this project.
If you have any questions or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to register for email updates use the same email address with HEATH POND UPDATES in the subject box.
A Glossary of Terms(19kb) has been produced to aid understanding of the project.