Hampstead Heath outdoor swimming ponds will change forever as new plans have been approved for a £700,000 revamp.
Highgate Men’s, Hampstead Mixed and Kenwood Ladies ponds are set to become more disabled-friendly and welcoming to swimmers through new changing rooms, toilets and better lifeguard huts.
The City of London Corporation, which manages the heath, wants to make swimming at the ponds more accessible for disabled visitors and create more room to meet the rising number of swimmers at the heath.
A specialist hoist will be installed at Highgate Men’s Pond to help wheelchair users get in and out of the water as well as a new wheelchair ramp and Hampstead Mixed Bathing Pond. The shower, changing, and toilet block will also be extended at the mixed pond to make it more accessible for disabled users.
Minor works are set for the showers at Parliament Hill Lido and the lifeguard huts at the men’s and mixed ponds will be upgraded.
The project is expected to cost between £691,000 and £755,000 and be funded by the City’s cash resources.
A report by the corporation’s project manager Edwin Birch said: “The facilities are no longer fit for purpose particularly during the summer months, taking account of the increase in visitor numbers, and the impact on lifeguards managing the bathing load and the facilities.”
Another report by the authority said the works are needed to improve the safety and security of the ponds and lido at Hampstead Heath. It adds: “The objective is to create inclusive layouts at the bathing ponds which will enable ambulant disabled and wheelchair users to enjoy these unique bathing facilities.
“The key project aim across all the locations is that the facilities are fit for purpose, taking account of the increase in visitor numbers, along with ensuring the configuration and layout is adapted to enable bathing load to be managed more effectively while ensuring the swimming facilities are welcoming to a diverse range of visitors.”
The works are expected to begin outside the peak season and finish in May 2023.
They said: “During the delivery period, some disruption may be encountered to the swimming ponds. However, the impact is lessened due the delivery being completed in the off-peak season and a phasing plan [is] being considered to allow normal swimming to continue where possible.”
The authority has submitted a planning application to Camden Council requesting permission for the works to go ahead. A contract for building the new set-ups will be tendered in July.
The City of London Corporation agreed to move ahead with the project at a meeting on Tuesday June 21.