Here is the press release:
HEATH & HAMPSTEAD SOCIETY LAUNCHES DAM NONSENSE CAMPAIGN TO SAVE HAMPSTEAD HEATH
The Heath & Hampstead Society today launches its Dam Nonsense Campaign with a Public Meeting in Hampstead to help save the historic Heath landscape and its popular network of ponds from monumental engineering works.
The City of London Corporation, which has responsibility for Hampstead Heath, is proposing to build new flood defences up to 18ft high around the Heath Ponds in order to reduce the City’s alleged legal liability to nearby residents in the case of a “one in 400,000 year”1 storm and flood.
The Corporation claims that 1,400 people downstream of the Heath could drown in such a storm, so it wants to spend £15 million to build dams or embankments on or between some of the Heath ponds.
The largest of these will be a new eight foot high dam on the Highgate Boating Pond and a new 18 foot high dam above the Hampstead Mixed Bathing Pond. Existing dams on other Highgate and Hampstead ponds will also be heavily built up, with large overflow spillways (some of them 140 feet or more across).
The Society’s campaign, made up of concerned local residents and supported by many Heath user groups, believes the works will permanently disfigure the Heath landscape. The Dam Nonsense Campaign has been established in an effort to scrutinise the City’s proposals and to prepare an effective response on behalf of local residents and businesses.
Speaking in advance of the campaign launch, Dam Nonsense spokesperson, Tony Hillier said: “We understand and support the City in its requirements to protect residents from the risk of flooding but after engaging with the City for two years, we believe the route being taken is deeply flawed. The City’s enthusiasm for its expensive monumental project is incomprehensible when there are alternative ways to address the risk that should be explored, such as early warning systems. We urge local residents and businesses to campaign and oppose the City’s plans.”
“Surely in the case of a catastrophic storm, the City should assume there will, in practice, be a reasonable period during which it will be possible to warn downstream residents. Such action would reduce the risk of fatalities and curb the cost and size of the dams needed to trap the rainstorm water. Coherent warning systems would also address the risk that the downstream residents face today from lesser storms which do not threaten dam collapse and for which the City already has a shared statutory responsibility with Camden Council, Thames Water and the emergency services under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.
“We believe the City is relying solely and unreasonably on the views of specialist reservoir engineers - who know how to make a dam safe, but are not qualified in the wider judgment of public safety and amenity in an urban environment, unless they take advice from experts in the related areas.
“We are very concerned that their assumptions and calculations are based not on recorded facts, but on highly theoretical computer models based on worst case scenarios including the arbitrary assumption that, regardless of their respective strengths (which have not been tested), each dam on every pond would collapse during a “one in 400,000 year” catastrophic storm.
Note 1: Within the context of flooding in London a ‘once in 400,000 year’ flood risk is hard to justify by comparison with risk thresholds applied to other schemes. For example: Thames Water sewers south of the Heath are designed to cope only with a ‘once in 70 year’ flood and the Thames Barrier is made to cope only with a ‘once in 1000 year’ flood.