Wild swimming venue closes four days after £6.8m relaunch

A wild swimming venue has closed four days after a £6.8million relaunch because ‘snowflake’ parents complained the 219-year-old lake is not safe for their children.

Beckenham Place Park was swamped with visitors after re-opening with a new ‘open water facility’, allowing the public to swim in the lake.

But an ambulance had to be called on Monday after a child was rescued from the water after getting into difficulty.

Managers at Lewisham Council also said the number of visitors due to the hot weather had ‘exceeded our most ambitious forecasts.’

Beckenham Place Park was swamped with visitors (pictured) after re-opening with a new ‘open water facility’, allowing the public to swim in a 219-year-old lake

Someone leaps into the lake on a sunny day, while others splash about and one person paddle boards

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (pictured middle) opened Beckenham Place Park at £6.8million relaunch

The council has now closed the venue – as well as the entire park – with immediate effect to ‘ensure people can enjoy themselves safely.’

They are erecting temporary fencing around the lake, introducing tickets for anyone visiting the lake area and making sure lifeguards are on duty whenever the water is open to swimmers.

It follows a slew of complaints from parents who said the venue didn’t have enough lifeguards, wasn’t properly signposted and got too deep too quickly.

Even though the definition of wild swimming is that it isn’t subject to the usual safety precautions.

One father-of-two said: ‘If you go to a local leisure centre, children aren’t allowed in the water unsupervised.

‘You hear stories in the summer about children and even young men who have drowned.

‘Who’s going to take responsibility when there’s another little coffin led out of there?’

Beckenham Place Park has only been open for a few days after a major redevelopment, but has now been forced to close

Ben Stanhope said on Facebook: ‘Is Beckenham Place Park safe enough, after several reports of injuries does the lake need supervision?

‘With the water being murky the children cannot see if they are treading on rocks etc I know until some safety procedures are in place I wouldn’t feel comfortable in letting my child swim.’

Elaine Storey said: ‘The beach area is not safe. It plunges from 0.5 to 3.5m in just two steps. The beach or splash area must be made safe or it has to be removed.’

Other parents described how their children panicked when the water suddenly got deeper.

But they were dubbed snowflakes by residents who said it was a wild swimming venue and shouldn’t be subject to the same rules as a leisure centre swimming pool or lido.

Jade Court said: ‘I grew up in a seaside town where kids went to the beach on their own when they could swim well enough.

‘If they couldn’t, their parents would be there with them taking full responsibility for their child’s safety.

‘It wasn’t the sea’s fault when a child got into difficulty. You can’t police everything, surely?

‘It’s clear the lake isn’t manned on a Monday so parents know to properly accompany their children on that day or avoid the lake altogether.

‘Labelling the lake unsafe seems a bit shortsighted…Surely the parents should be shouldered with the responsibility of their child’s welfare, particularly if they choose to swim outside the designated guarded times.’

The closure divided opinion. With some people suggesting people should still look after their children at the lake (pictured)

Others were critical of the fact Lewisham Council closed the lake after only a few days of being open (pictured)

Some parents were unhappy with the safety measures in place at the lake for their children (pictured)

And other people said there needed to be lifeguards, and the lake is not a ‘paddling pool’

Elaine, suggested children should be equipped with armbands and if you think it is unsafe then do not attend the lake

Jade said labelling the lake ‘unsafe’ was a bit ‘short-sighted’ and that parents should ‘shoulder the responsibility of their child’s welfare’

Ant Westgarth said: ‘We are in an age where common sense has been removed from the equation.

‘Many parents just do not think, this is not a paddling pool it’s a lake, why would you let your child go in if you can’t swim yourself.’

‘If there are no lifeguards do not swim there, go to a public baths or lido.’

Kim Reed-Marsh added: ‘Of course it’s unsafe, it’s a lake! A child is also unsafe near a bath, pond, swimming pool etc if unsupervised.

‘This is basic parenting.’

And Andy Ward said: ‘Let’s get some clarity. It’s a LAKE! It’s not a paddling pool. It’s a lake. You enter it at your own risk.’

The revamp of the Georgian park – one of London’s oldest and largest – cost more than £6.8m, with £4.8m coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £2m from Lewisham Council.

It means children’s play areas have been upgraded and there is a new BMX and skate park for youngsters.

The lake is 285 metres long and reaches depths of up to 3.5 metres and will also be used for kayaking and other water sports.

London mayor Sadiq Khan officially opened it at the weekend.

Wild swimming has grown in popularity with Instagrammers and youtube channels dedicated to it.

A spokesman for Lewisham Council said: ‘The public response to the redevelopment of Beckenham Place Park has been fantastic.

‘The number of visitors enjoying the new facilities has far exceeded our most ambitious forecasts.

‘However, as with any open water facility we need to ensure that the lake and the space around it is managed carefully to ensure people can enjoy themselves safely.

‘In order to manage the numbers of swimmers and lake users safely we are introducing some temporary fencing around the lake perimeter to restrict the amount of people in the water at any one time.

‘Access will be ticketed and there will be a small charge to enter. There will be lifeguards on duty during opening hours.’


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