The crowdfunding campaign to demonstrate community support for a transformative project to turn an old Thames Water depot into the first new swimming ponds to be built in London since Hampstead Ponds in 1777, has hit the halfway mark. To date 2,194 donors have pledged £250,000 since 28 June 2022.
East London Waterworks Park is a volunteer-led charity based across Hackney and Waltham Forest. One of the organisations that founded the project was formed in response to the 2012 Olympic Games, and it hopes that the project will create a longer, more widespread legacy than just the Olympic Park in Stratford.
Abigail Woodman, Chair of East London Waterworks Park says this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the environment, and the physical and mental health of the people of East London: “We want to raise £3 million within the next year to buy the land, before we miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a real difference to our communities.
“With your support, we can raise £1 million directly through crowdfunding (https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/elwp). If we can achieve this, we have every reason to believe it will unlock further funding of £2 million from corporate donations and grant funding.”
The first iteration of the charity’s business plan demonstrates how the project will deliver more than £16.24 million in social value, a figure that has been calculated by the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of East London using the Construction Industry Research and Information Association’s B£ST Tool.
Hackney benefits from the incredibly popular London Fields Lido and Hackney West Reservoir for outdoor swimming, but Waltham Forest has no outdoor swimming provision. During the recent heatwave, swimming pools were inundated with locals desperate to cool off. With some 40% of young people in Waltham Forest and Hackney living in poverty, many of the existing facilities are simply too expensive.
The sustainably maintained ponds will cover around 5,000 square meters and allow more than 1,000 people to swim each day for free. There will also be spaces for scientific research, arts, and a make-and-repair café. The park will be the largest community rewilding plot bought from the UK government. It will create habitats for rare butterflies, invertebrates, bats, and birds, and be the first public swimming ponds in the UK to be filled with rainwater cleaned naturally by reeds and aquatic plants.
Grace Williams, Leader of Waltham Forest Council adds: “The Council has been actively and positively engaging with the group through the Area Regeneration Delivery team, providing early feedback on their vision and seeking their views of the needs in the wider area through the engagement on the Lea Bridge Area Framework. The Council would have a role as the Local Planning Authority in the future if any proposals for the site are formalised through a planning application.”