Pictured, top, is how the expanded car park on the Heath could look and, below, Martin Jacques
Published: 4 April, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
HAMPSTEAD Heath managers have been accused of attempting to cash in by expanding a car park that residents living nearby fear could become an “eyesore”.
The New Journal has learned that Heath Managers the City of London have asked Camden Council for planning permission to make the East Heath car park, which is tucked alongside East Heath Road and a grassy hill just south of the Vale of Health, 20 per cent larger, with 50 more spaces.
The proposal has been criticised by people living nearby.
Writer Martin Jacques, whose home overlooks East Heath, said he opposed the idea of any more of the Heath being commandeered for car parking.
Mr Jacques, who runs on the Heath every day, said: “I fear it will become an eyesore.
"The last thing we need is space for extra cars.
"I go past the car park regularly and it simply isn’t true to say it is always full.
"There has been a creeping manicurisation of the Heath, an almost glacier-like move to make it more like a park, which it is not. Its attraction is its wildness.”
A spokesman for the City said the plans would not only raise extra cash and offer more spaces for visitors, but would also help landscape an area that has been neglected.
“We are working with landscape architects to reverse its semi-urban appearance, to bring it more into keeping with the rural nature of the rest of the Heath,” the spokesman added.
“We will be planting hedgerows and trimming excessive vegetation to allow sunlight through.”
The changes, which would involve the car park having regulated spaces instead of the current system that allows drivers to pull up where they find a gap, would cost around £25,000 to implement and the extra spaces are expected to raise around £60,000 a year in parking fees.
The Heath Consultative Committee, which is made up of volunteers, have rubber-stamped the plans, but now public will now get the chance to have their say before Town Hall planners decide whether to give the go-ahead.
The City has recently been criticised for trying to force swimmers into paying for traditionally free dips in the Heath ponds, and have also been accused of a lack of transparency over where the funding for managing the Heath comes from.