As a start, a general meeting was held on Sunday 17th of April with Robert Sutherland Smith in the chair and attended by, among others, members of the KLPA, the lido group and Hampstead Winter Swimmers.
After a short introduction to the USA the meeting focussed on the proposed engineering works. Several of those present had been to a long consultative meeting organised by the City for invited individuals including representatives of swimmers’ organisations but not including the lido group. The other main source of information was the talk at the KLPA AGM. All those who attended either of those meetings had understood from City spokespersons that the works were proposed primarily because they were required by the 2010 Flood and Water Management Act, that the Act would come into force in the summer 2011 and that therefore opposing the plan is not a rational option and that there is room for negotiation only around the details of design and the timetable.
This understanding, however, was called into question by a report in the Ham and High on the 14th of April (summarised in a previous post) stating that according to DEFRA, the relevant Government Department, the legislation has been postponed until 2012 at the earliest and may be subject to extensive changes. In response the City circulated a Q. and A. ( reproduced in a previous post)
In the following discussion the main points made were: (1) the City seems to have misrepresented the situation by stressing the 2010 Act; (2) the impression had been given that a reluctant City was being forced to Act by DEFRA whereas the recent DEFRA statement suggests that DEFRA has yet to decide what may or may not be required; (3) this contradiction raises questions about other aspects of the City’s case and the reasons why the Corporation decided to propose such expensive and environmentally damaging works; (4) the Q. and A. circulated by the City purports to show that the DEFRA statement does not materially alter the case for the works but is not convincing; (5) despite these new doubts it is important to take into account that complying with the 2010 Act is not the only consideration. Some of the proposed work may be required under an earlier Act of 1975 which already classifies three of the ponds as reservoirs and, in any case, any serious danger to the public should be addressed.
The general conclusion was that it seems clear now that the timetable proposed by the City is unnecessarily hasty but on the basis of information currently available it is difficult to judge whether the works can be justified either because of statutory obligation or because they are in the public interest. It was premature to either oppose or endorse the project but the misinformation about the 2010 Act strongly suggests a need for vigilance.
It was agreed that the USA is needed to co-ordinate the swimmers’ responses and the immediate priority is to find out more. As a first step, Robert Sutherland Smith will ask the City for some more documentation.
It was decided to postpone election of officers to a meeting to be called in the near future.
WATCH THIS SPACE…….