The City of London Corporation is setting out a plan to reopen its swimming facilities at Hampstead Heath when safe to do so.
In line with Government guidance on Covid-19, the Bathing Ponds and Lido at Hampstead Heath currently remain closed. The City Corporation is keeping the situation under constant review and will reopen as soon as it is safe for visitors and staff, in consultation with Swimming Associations.
Swimming facilities may be able to open under “Step 3” of the Government’s Strategy, meaning 4 July 2020 at the earliest.
The City Corporation has started to prepare recovery plans for the Hampstead Heath swimming facilities. One of the key concerns is the safety of the lifeguards as first responders.
As part of their normal roles, they may be required to provide immediate assistance that involves close contact with potentially infected individuals until further medical assistance arrives.
Temporary plans have been put together to help mitigate these safety concerns and ensure social distancing can be maintained at the ponds and lido. All will be regularly reviewed, and changes made where necessary. These include:
- Specialist training for lifeguards with adaptations to maintain social distancing.
- People will be able to swim by booking set sessions*. An online booking website will be in place to manage sessions to be booked and paid for in advance. Staff will be able to assist people who do not have online access.
- The number of swimming sessions per day and the numbers in each session has been based on an estimate to maintain social distancing at each facility. A range of booking limitations will be necessary to prevent block bookings by individuals and to ensure as many people as possible have an opportunity to swim.
- Time will be set aside between swim sessions to facilitate cleaning and preparing facilities for the next session.
- At the Parliament Hill Fields Lido, plans are being looked at to provide family sessions where a ratio of 1 adult per 2 children from the same household may swim together.
- Social distancing whilst queueing, a one-way system and swimming in lanes at the Lido will also be introduced. Outdoor showers will remain open, indoor showers closed.
- New signage will be installed to ensure visitors are aware of the changes to the swimming arrangements.
- The City Corporation is looking at introducing more facilities for changing where possible.
- Sunbathing will be allowed in some spaces where social distancing permits.
More details on the plans can be found on the Hampstead Heath website here.
Anne Fairweather, chair of the Hampstead Heath Management Committee, said: “We know how important the Heath’s ponds and lido are to so many people, particularly our regular, loyal swimmers.
“That’s why we are keen to have this recovery plan in place to be able to open the swimming facilities again, as soon as we know it is safe to do so, in line with Government guidance on Covid-19.
“The safety of our lifeguards and swimmers is paramount. These session times will be temporary measures only, but they are important to help alleviate safety concerns as much as possible. It will also relieve pressure on use of the toilets and changing areas as well as swimmers social distancing in and out of the water.
“We will continue to work closely with swimming groups and will provide updates on our website and social media when possible. We look forward to welcoming back swimmers to our beautiful ponds and lido.”
In due course, the City Corporation intends to move online booking onto the Hampstead Heath App which is currently in development. At this stage contactless payments could be introduced and integrated with season ticket wristbands.
The City Corporation protects 11,000 acres of green space in the capital, which includes Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, West Ham Park, Burnham Beeches, and over 200 smaller sites in the Square Mile.
It is constantly monitoring the situation across its green spaces. Open Spaces staff will ask people to move on when areas become too crowded, and encourage visitors to be tolerant and respectful of their duties to keep the areas safe.