Council officials have officially warned all photographers u2013 including amateurs and those with camera phones u2013 that they must seek permission to take pictures at council-run events, including those designed to celebrate Christmas.

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council confirmed the restrictions after freelance photographer Andrew Bartlett was told to stop taking pictures at a publicly-accessible Christmas lights event earlier this month.


Bartlett had complained that a ‘Santa assistant’ – later revealed to be a council official – had approached him at a Christmas-themed market in the Welsh town.

In a statement, issued to Amateur Photographer (AP), the council said: ‘We understand the frustration of any photographer who may not be able to take photographs freely at events such as the Christmas Ilumination Ceremony, especially given their hobby and enthusiasm for photography.

‘However, as a local authority, we require all photographers and media agencies to secure permission from the council’s Corporate Communications department prior to arriving on site.’

The council said it does not currently hold an official photography policy but that this is ‘being reviewed with a view to putting a policy in place in the near future’.

The statement continued: ‘The council has a duty of care during events to members of the public, and has the right to question all photographers.

‘We ask all those wishing to film or take photos to complete a media request in advance and ensure that all appropriate consents/permissions are secured during photography sessions.

‘As a result of this, should any photographer wish to attend any future council-run events to take photographs, we recommend that they contact the Corporate Communications department prior to the event in order for us to support any requests and advise accordingly.’

A council spokesperson said the same rules apply to members of the public using camera phones.

Bartlett today told AP that the council has since sent him a copy of the rules.


Santa bans photography at Christmas lights event

  • Chris Cooper

    I often think these public officials that come up with these things don’t like in the real world. We’re all “photographers” now. Nearly every person carries at least one camera on them when out and about, even if just on a phone. These people still talk about “photographers” though as if they are somehow different to ordinary members of the public. Photography is very much an expanding hobby as it’s so accessible, especially as a casual hobby. The way some people talk though it’s like it’s still viewed as some kind of witchcraft that involves locking yourself in a darkened room for hours with lots of dangerous chemicals. Yes there are some people who take the hobby very seriously (although they are more likely now to spend hours on photoshop than in a darkroom), but the majority of photographers are pretty casual.

  • Peter Juerges

    so this applies to tourist too…what nonesense…to document your visit and perhaps even promote the event to others you need permission …communications office indeed…these are public servants…on yer bike council officials…

  • Jez Coulson

    I feel strongly that anyone with a camera phone or a camera should not attend events organized on this basis. I never shop anywhere that bans cameras. Public events need to maintain the usual curtsies and freedoms, in Britain people have the right to make photographs in public places. Is Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council twinned with the city authority in Pyong Yang, North Korea ? I have successfully organized boycotts of businesses that ban photography in New York causing them to rethink and change their policy. Nobody who enjoys photography or the ordinary freedoms we take for granted in a Western democracy should attend an event organized with the same restrictions on freedom for ordinary individuals and the press as you would expect to find in a totalitarian state……

  • Gordon Johnston

    What actual duty of care is the council actually preforming on how behalf, and what crime has been ever committed at one of these public events? More to the point has anyone been convicted of any crime in relation to photographs been taken at these events.
    I would love to know how many members of the public have actually complained regarding photography at these events? In NI they are propose to make all dog owners have their dogs on a leash at all times on any public land. These officials are nutts why do we ever let them run our lives, anything that involves fun they seem to want to ban or legislate!

  • Kerwood

    Go enforce that, you bunch of nitwit councillors!

  • Chris

    Best way to deal with this is for every photographer in the country to request permission to photograph in the district in order to ensure that they are registered and complying with the policies in place. Not sure how well the council would cope with many millions of owners of cameras/camera phones etc mind.

  • carl watson

    What on earth is the UK coming to? photography in a public place is a citizen’s right.”Big Brother” seems to be arriving with a bite, a bit after 1984.

  • P Clements

    Tosh !!!

    So what happened to ‘you have the right to take photos so long as you are taking them from a public place’

    I’m not apposed to giving my details previous to an event but does that mean photographers amateur or not will have a council road sweeper putting his hand in front of your lens at an event

    Obviously anyone taking pictures needs to use a bit of common sense. I think it should be left to a policeman to talk to you if you are doing something that is cause for concern

    What’s next ….. Not allowed to listen to music with headphones whilst walking through the high street oh yeah !! Unless you register first that is

  • My Name

    Hahahaha… Oh really! I’d like to see them try and enforce that! If it’s in a public place then they CAN NOT stop you taking photographs. FACT!

  • Jez Coulson

    I feel strongly that anyone with a camera phone or a camera should not attend events organized on this basis. I never shop anywhere that bans cameras. Public events need to maintain the usual curtsies and freedoms, in Britain people have the right to make photographs in public places. Is Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council twinned with the city authority in Pyong Yang, North Korea ? I have successfully organized boycotts of businesses that ban photography in New York causing them to rethink and change their policy. Nobody who enjoys photography or the ordinary freedoms we take for granted in a Western democracy should attend an event organized with the same restrictions on freedom for ordinary individuals and the press as you would expect to find in a totalitarian state.

  • Dave Pressland

    More madness. Don’t these people employ lawyers? We photographers have the RIGHT (not the privelege) to take photographs of public accessible events in public places. We have the RIGHT (not the privelege) to photograph anyone, of any age, ethnicity or occupation, in a public place with or without their permission. If someone doesn’t want to be photographed while taking part in such an event then their only option is to not take part at all. They have NO RIGHT to prevent photographers going about their lawful business.

  • Tom Fenn

    What a load of Jobsworth nonsense. There is no law that prevents people from taking pictures in a public space. Only a couple years ago, photographers taking photos in a public space were considered to be potential terrorists. Since Savilegate, photographers are now being treated as potential pervs. All this latest panic does is increase people’s fears about people taking pictures in public places. It’s utterly ridiculous.

  • Paul marfell

    Could you imagine what a task it would be for the council if everyone who thought they might get their camera out (phone, compact, etc.) completed an application?

  • Ian

    Of course, if this is on public land, the council has no rights in law to prevent people taking photos. Time for a mass photo taking session!

  • Vass

    If in public they can do nothing unless a bylaw is in place. Am I right?

  • Peter Scott

    We as photographers have the right to take photographs in public places. I would also point out that councils use events such as this to support local businesses.

    The obvious response to this action by the council is to take our money elsewhere and spend it in authorities without petty beurocrats

  • chris warman

    as a photographer there are only a few places by law that you are not allowed to take photographs in a public place.these are the royal parks,Trafalgar square and one other place in london there is also restriction on military bases even from a public place

  • Brian Waddell

    Is this a sign of “things to come”. I feel that our rights are about to be taken away, soon there will be no such thing as a “public space” something that we all own. Time for these “jobsworths” to be put in place.

  • Randell John

    Since when does a councils corporate media policy have precedence over U.K law.
    This is just another example of a local council overstepping their authority.
    If they really want to enforce such a policy then someone should suggest that they hold all their events on council owned property and not the public streets of the town they administer.
    I hope someone takes this council to task on this issue and puts them in their place. Cheeky so and so’s.

  • Steve

    Merthyr has always been a bit far to the left, but now I fear its crazed commissars have wandered well over the line and allied it with North Korea. This ban will no doubt be heavily enforced and I see trouble brewing at what were once happy family events.

  • Neil Barker

    If it’s in a public place, then there’s absolutely nothing they can lawfully do to stop you. Tw*ts of the highest order….

  • Pete Jenkins

    “All” Photography?
    ” the same rules apply to members of the public using camera phones.”

    Good luck with that one Merthyr.

    Sometimes I get the feeling that councils have forgotten that they are there to serve the community. These sort of draconian edicts are not only impossible to police, but in many cases against the law of the land.

    Unless they own the land and are regulating admission trying to instigate this sort of restriction is very unwise.

    One can only think that perhaps they have a new member of staff who is showing how useful they can be?

    Why would any council think irritating members of their own public would prove useful and helpful simply escapes me.

  • Simon Chapman

    The council does not say whether this is for events on council owned land only. Presumably most such events would either be on council owned land or private land with use granted to the council, but if the photographer was on a public highway or footpath then I don’t think the council would have any power to stop photos being taken. That said it is crazy to try and control all photography at public access events anyway.

  • Shaun

    Surely, if the event is held in a public space then they are powerless to control this.

  • Demostene Romanucci

    Wow, I guess we have a lot to be grateful for here in Albany, the capitol of New York State.

  • Howdy

    And should some sort of accident/disaster occur at that public event, can we assume that the Local Authority wouldn’t appeal for evidence photos?

  • Dave

    If the event is taking place on a public highway, my understanding is that a local authority would still need to obtain a temporary stopping up of the highway to create a “private” event and then be able to enforce such restrictions. The only bodies with power to stop up a highway without going through a due legal process in accordance with the Highways Act are The Police or, alternatively, a staututory undertaker (Gas, Electric, Water Company etc.) or Local Authority in an emergency situation. An organised event would not count as an emergency situation. In any of these situations the highway would have to be “closed” to the public through suitable signage.

  • Malcolm Parslow

    Rules should only be made if they can be enforced. With current finnancial restraints its is difficult to understand how any council can afford to try and enforce the same. It is possible that nearly all people carry a camera or camera phone when out and about.
    Conflicts with the overall law that photography is allowed in public places but Public Places needs to be defined. ie is a Car Park which is owned by a Council Private or Public?
    as it is owned by the Ratepayers.
    Finally rules are ment to be broken.

  • r paxman

    It seems to be that they are p….d up with power these council lot and do not know what to do next to mess people about,talk about jumped up never come down jobsworths get yourselves a life

  • Peter Tulloch

    This is a nonsense. As they say in their statement they have no current pubically stated policy on photography and they have no rights to stop photography in public places in any case.

    Also their website has a section called “Request it” which is clearly aimed at ‘filming’ and not the taking of photos.

    In these days of urgently needed cost savings how many people are involved in the pursuit of this stupidity and could the money not be better spent on services that benefit the community.

    If all those wishing to take their amateur/enthusiast photos applied they would be swamped.


  • Brian Crossland

    A potential solution – AP create an electronic application form and everyone with a camera or camera phone applies to every single Council for such permissions. 500 years later, Councils will stop trying to process all the requests, or they’ll introduce another permissions department which we have to apply to in order to get permission to apply for permission. Then, under the Freedom of Information Act we all apply for details of how many permissions they’ve granted and a summary of their reasons for refusal. Future generations will also notice that they have no photographic records of the last 500 years.

  • Irate photographer

    The Law: You do not have the right to interrogate photographers!

    Now get back in your box or go and sweep some streets.

  • John Butler

    This restrictive attitude adopted by councils needs to be challenged. I doubt that they have the legal power to act in this way.

  • Dave Hutton

    This is crazy!
    I hope AP will issue guidance on the legal position for all photographers.

  • Daniel Kvinta

    How a freedom gone from ANGEL’S LAND (= ENGLAND).Nobody in a future will know our buildings and live of people from our present.We are destroying our history earlier then our enemy!Congratulations!

  • Peter Allen

    Jobs worthy, all of them. When will they learn. What is it about councils?

  • Phillip Briggs

    Surely the council have no legal right to do this in a public place and should be challenged legally. Why don’t we all chip in to a legal fighting fund in a similar way to a recent case of an overbearing council trying to impose restrictions on a horse rider legally using a bridleway. AP could perhaps initiate this? Cash strapped Councils don’t want to spend money fighting legal challenges.

  • stefan pankow

    what a load of tosh. if its a public event in a public place councils do not have the right to challenge any photographer

  • John Young

    That is crazy… so are police and council officers going to scouring the public, families with kids and people having a ‘good time who just in case some people want to record their day out. Maybe slam them in prison or even better put them in the stocks… Yeah lets get anyone who DARES to take a photo (inset shock face here) of their kids, family or just to snap those pretty lights and make an example of them, …fifty lashes I say…

    Very sad days….

  • Wilson Laidlaw

    I wonder if the residents of Merthyr think that having an anti-photography patrol is a good use of the council taxes they pay. Alternatively they might prefer the money to be spent on more frequent refuse collections or more street cleaning, rather than a jobsworth activity like this.

  • charles stephens

    If the event took place in a public area,ie town centre or such,surely the council do not have the authority to take such action and are themselves guilty of harasment:The law of the land is quite explicit regarding photography in public areas!

  • Woody

    A silly report. Where is the other side of the argument? Are we talking about photography in a public place or private council premises?

  • Glenn

    Another example of the ridiculous overbearing extremes that are inflicting us, the public.
    In effect this ‘sad person’ is saying that to take pictures of my family trying to enjoy the council event I must seek council permission first. so you can kiss spur of the moment photos if you go to Merthyr Tydfil.

  • Ludovic

    Let all of us photographer, even those who don’t want to go to this place, ask for permission to take pictures of an event…
    That will show them how stupid their view is.
    Furthermore it may be illegal?

  • Phil Baldwin

    I would have thought that if the event was in a public area they have no right to stop photographers. I thought we’d been through all this when Labour was in power and the new Government gave us back most of our rights.

  • Patrick Green

    So much for the season of goodwill, this requirement is absolute madness and serves no logical purpose.

    It’s just another example of some jumped up official trying the trample over the rights of photographers.

  • Chris Small

    Interesting! My club has provided it’s members with a statement issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers for England, Wales and Norther Ireland, no less. That statement makes it very clear that there are no powers preventing the taking of photographs in public places. This applies to police officers and therefore it would seem likely that it applies equally to council and other officials.

    The statement is too long to repeat in full here but I suspect that AP are already aware of it’s existence.

  • robert painton

    Once again an over bearing Council official has over stepped the mark laid down by goverment it is not illigal pratice to take photographs in a public place providing no infringements are being made so the council has no right in law to stop photography not matter how they dress it up.Perhaps the Welsh Tourist board should take up issue with this unless they dont want us to visit the welsh counties food for though.

  • David Ryland

    What if every photographer in the country were to contact them for permission on the offchance that they may be attending. I wonder how the department concerned would cope and I wonder also what would be the opinion of the local ratepayers to spending public money responding to this. Perhaps we should all test the water.

  • Martin

    What utter cobblers – if it’s a public place they don’t have a leg to stand on

  • D Hall

    Soon we shall need a licence to breath, not that I would want to breath the air at Merthyr Tydfil, having passed through it last year.

  • ffotos

    What a load of rubbish. If you are in a public place then you should have the right to take photographs of what ever you want to. It really annoys me when jobs worth people get on their high horses…. Just get on with your proper job guys and gals…

  • Biri

    What a silly thing. It is the taxes that we pay that fund the councils.

  • Keith Terry

    Does anyone remember, back in the days when the UK was a free country, how we were amazed to hear of western tourists getting arrested for taking photos of mundane subjects in eastern bloc countries ?

  • Carl Stephens

    I’m glad I don’t live in Merthyr Tydfil.

  • Wlad

    Are we going to send navy and air-force to end tyranny in Merthyr Tydfil?

  • Mike Durrans

    Merthyr Tydfil the council of the loony labour left, I hope they are taken to court by Andrew, they have no right in a public place.

  • Steve Dixon

    This is one step too far. I’ve just contacted them through the web page telling them as much. They have no right in law to restrict photography and the sooner this is challenged the better otherwise you may as well pack your camera away.

  • Mark Coates

    Perhaps I should ask permission for every event they are planning to run the next six months. If a few thousand people did that they may get sick of it

  • Ron Clark

    It’s time this one was cahllened in the courts methinks!

  • Geoffrey Rees

    I think that we as photographers should get our box brownies and desend on the town at the next public event.

  • Peter Chapman

    What is wrong with authorities of every description and level in the UK? We are the most monitored society in Europe and must be pushing totalitarian states close. Now photographers need to get advance permission before taking pictures at an event open to the public and, often, held on public land – surely that is itself a contradiction of the law.
    Why don’t these officials see themselves as the servants of the public, the photographer wanting to take pictures is just that, and a voter to boot. Does a parent need to get advance permission to take pictures of their family enjoying the turning on of Christmas lights or any other ‘public’ event?

  • Libby Stack

    And are the self described mom and dad “iPhoneopgrapehrs” be required to apply for permits too? Sorry but there is a HUGE double standard here.

  • Mark101

    They have no rights on public property. Under law the Council’s actions could be constrewed as harrassment.

  • David Featherstone

    Great, I suggest that ALL photgraphers through out the country apply for concent to take photos in Myrthyr, that will make them think.

  • Stuart Fawcett

    Sounds like bureaucrats are making work for themselves. I’d say everyone has a responsibility to be vigilant about others, and organisers to need to ensure safety on pathways etc. but in public to restrict people with big cameras based on negative opinions is so out of touch.
    Is it a public place – if yes photo’s allowed, simple.
    I hope other local photographers also now turn up regularly with a Camera phone in one hand and SLR in the other, not to cause conflict but to preserve common sense.

  • Dick Roberts