Launch Release


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 builddams 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.

Notes to Editors


A Public Meeting will take place on Monday 25th November at 8pm at St. Stephen’s, Pond Street, London NW3 2PP

To find out more on the Dam Nonsense Campaign, visit:

Follow the campaign conversation on Twitter at @DamNonsense or #damnonsense

Hampstead Heath was taken into public ownership in 1871 and is protected today by the terms of the Hampstead Heath Act of 1871 which requires the landscape of the Heath to be preserved in its natural aspect and state.

Established in 1897, the Heath & Hampstead Society, a registered charity, works to protect the Heath and its ponds, and has a long and proud history of holding to account the authorities who manage Hampstead Heath. To find out more about the Society, visit

The City of London Corporation’s Consultation ends on 17th February 2014, more information is available at:

Media Contacts

Tony Hillier, Dam Nonsense Campaign Spokesperson, 07740 926917,

Helen Marcus, Dam Nonsense Campaign Spokesperson, 0208 450 8864,

Jo Tanner, iNHouse Communications, 0207 240 7338 / 07956 365864

Local Opposition to the City’s proposals includes:

Contact: David Lewis, Coordinator

The Highgate Society
Contact: Michael Hammerson, c/o Highgate Society, 10a South Grove, N6 6BS

The Hampstead Heath Anglers’ Association
Contact: Prem Holdaway, 0207 359 0576,

United Swimmers’ Association of Hampstead Heath
Contact: Robert Sutherland Smith, Chair, 0208 455 0352,

Kenwood Ladies Pond Association
Contact: Jane Shallice, Chair, 0208 348 8370/07814971835,

Highgate Men’s Pond Association
Contact: Dr Geoff Goss, Chair, 0207 482 1860/0207 815 7625 (work),
Ben White: Secretary, 07950325784,

Mixed Pond Association
Contact: Rachel Douglas, Chair, 0207 485 1467,

Hampstead Heath Winter Swimming Club
Contact Mary Cane: Chair, 0207 485 8233/07973227578,