There are questions over the appointment of an outside consultancy for the Heath
20 April, 2017
• THE City of London Corporation announces that it will be bringing in consultants to contribute to a 10-year plan for Hampstead Heath.
The Heath was purchased towards the end of the 19th century, with publicly-raised contributions, to preserve this old stretch of Middlesex countryside not only to prevent commercial development of it but also to preserve it for all time, as the countryside it had always been.
In short, the Heath is not a park or an ill-defined “open space”.
Worryingly Bob Wornock, superintendent of Hampstead Heath, refers to such things as “enhancement”, “long-term community vision… to inform a strategic management plan” asking how “the Heath will look in 25 to 50 years time”.
The answer to the last question is obvious: fundamentally it should look as it does now and as it broadly has done since the 1860s and 1870s and to serve its long-established purpose as a rural retreat in “London’s countryside”.
The introduction of an outside consultancy, named Groundwork London, must not usurp existing representative institutions and relationships. They have the strongest motivation in preserving the Heath and have done so loyally and wonderfully well over the last 145 years – long before the City of London’s more recent involvement.
Although Groundwork London has seemingly admirable objectives, I also note that it has more than a touch of the corporate consultancy about it, both in terms of its various divisions of activity and in the commercial backgrounds of its “trustees”.
We need to know what connections this organisation, described as a charity, has with the City of London Corporation which employs it?
We have recently had the example of the grossly over-engineered dams, to prompt the prudence of that kind of consideration. Has it been employed to facilitate unknown intentions of the City’s next 10-year plan for Hampstead Heath?
The road to hell is paved with good intentions; we do not want them paving old Hampstead Heath as well.
I trust that the people of the miles of local areas around the Heath will be as forcefully questioning and loyal (to Hampstead Heath) as they always are on these occasions?
ROBERT SUTHERLAND SMITH,
Chairman, United Swimmers Association of Hampstead Heath