Great Britain

Hampstead Heath swimmers call on Ponds bosses to avoid ‘disproportionate’ price rises

The first few days after the bathing ponds reopened were beset with booking problems. Picture: Aaron Chown / PA

The first few days after the bathing ponds reopened were beset with booking problems. Picture: Aaron Chown / PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Hampstead Heath swimmers are looking for assurances that concessionary ticket prices won’t rise at the beginning of 2021. The chair and vice-chair of the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association (KLPA) told the Ham&High they wanted the City of London Corporation to address their concerns that ticket prices will “increase disproportionately”.

Swimmers return to Hampstead Heath's Mixed Pond in July. Picture: Aaron Chown / PASwimmers return to Hampstead Heath's Mixed Pond in July. Picture: Aaron Chown / PA

This comes after the City of London Corporation (CoLC) revealed that 124,776 swimming tickets had been sold during the shortened summer swimming season – but that more than 20% of people were “no-shows” and didn’t turn up for their booked slot.

READ MORE: Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds to reopen when London returns to Tier 2Statistics released in a report presented to the CoLC’s Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park committee last week also showed that 2,139 season tickets had been purchased for swimming on the Heath, and laid out how much Heath bosses had spent on the three bathing ponds and the Parliament Hill Lido between April and September, including the spending on the ill-fated contract to run bookings when the ponds and the Lido reopened after the pandemic.

Total costs over the summer season ran to £842,000, with that offset by £210,000 in income. Of the spending, £4,134 paid to contractor Active Training World (ATW) for running a booking website described by users as “abysmal” during the three days it was operational in early July.

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From the KLPA, Ruth Hallgarten and Mary Powell said: “The CoLC has ignored many requests to show leadership and magnanimity toward a community in financial and personal distress in 2020, by revisiting its decision on charging.

“It looks as if we will be enter 2021 under the threat of further price rises and exclusion at the ponds.”

A CoLC spokesperson said: “It was a difficult start to the 2020 summer swimming season, but we are proud of how our staff responded to this unprecedented pandemic.

“We were able to move quickly and put in place Covid-secure arrangements as soon as Government guidance arrived.”

They added that the initial issues with ATW had been “regrettable” but that they worked quickly to put in place an alternative.

The spokesperson also referred to the “overwhelmingly positive verdict” received in a survey it carried out of swimmers, and said: “Over 80 per cent gave a score of between seven and 10, with 10 ranked as ‘excellent’, while almost 60 per cent rated the online booking system between seven and 10.

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