Judicial review of swimming charges at Hampstead Heath concludes

08:35 26 February 2022

A High Court judge has heard that financial hardship rather than disability could affect access to the ponds.

A judicial review of the ladies’ pond pricing scheme at Hampstead Heath concluded on Thursday February 24, with the City of London Corporation (CoLC) defending its position.

The case has been brought to the High Court by disabled swimmer Christina Efthimiou, backed by the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association (KLPA), who claim the charges discriminate against people with disabilities.

Clive Sheldon QC, speaking on behalf of the CoLC, said that if fees could reduce disabled swimmers’ access to the ponds, it was due to financial means rather than disability.

“The mere fact of being disabled does not affect access to the pools. Poverty is not intrinsic to disability,” he said.

“If swimmers with disabilities cannot afford access to ponds, they suffer this disadvantage because of impecuniosity, not disability.”

In response to the claimant’s proposed reasonable adjustment to charges, Mr Sheldon said removing the disability payment would mean a drop in income of up to £60,000.

“Subsidizing more for swimming would mean there is less money available for other activities,” he said.

Mr Sheldon said introducing a direct debit scheme would entail additional costs and ‘could represent a loss to the charity’.

Responding to the claim that the charging policy discriminates against people with disabilities, he said concessions were in place and that removing the charges for people with disabilities would lead to “rampant unlawful discrimination across the United Kingdom”.

Zoe Leventhal QC, speaking on behalf of Ms Efthimiou, hit back saying ‘the ponds were historically free’ and have been for almost 100 years.

She said Hampstead Heath Charity is “a not-for-profit charity committed to inclusion, including financial and physical inclusion”.

“People with disabilities are subject to much higher costs than people without disabilities because not knowing how to swim has consequences,” Ms Leventhal said.

The KPLA funded £13,000 for the case. A judgment is due in the coming weeks.