An amateur photographer was shocked to discover he would have to pay £300 to take snaps of a staircase inside City Hall, home to London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Photography enthusiast Stewart Hardy telephoned City Hall explaining he wanted to take pictures of the staircase for his own ?personal use? and that he had no plans to sell the images.

But the visitor enquiries office said he would have to fork out an ‘hourly rate’ of £300, the cost of hiring out the whole space which includes the main chamber used for debates and committee meetings.

‘I was a bit shocked. The impression was given, fairly unambiguously, that I would have to pay,’ said Stewart, a graphic designer who lives in Edinburgh.

‘They said Monday is free but it would cost me loads of money.’

The staircase (see below) lies above the debating chamber and so officials charge amateur photographers the same rate as an organisation would pay for hiring the entire area for a special event.

A spokeswoman explained that the City Hall staff member the photographer had spoken to was new to the job and hadn?t been fully briefed.

However, she defended City Hall?s policy and said the information given to the photographer by phone was accurate.

?We try to facilitate amateurs,? she told us. ?Usually we say you can go in there for ten minutes to take a couple of pictures.

?We wouldn?t be able to facilitate people going in there for an hour or two hours? There would be a charge incurred.?

City Hall advises amateurs to give staff as much notice as possible.

?They have to understand it can usually be only for a short period of time because it?s a working building,? added the spokeswoman.

On hearing news he may be able to take a few pictures after all, Stewart told us: ‘It is good they are being accommodating.’

In 2009 the editor of a UK-based photography website was stopped by police near City Hall for ‘taking photos of iconic landmarks’.

Mark Goldstein, who edits PhotographyBLOG, was stopped under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act by police targeting ‘individuals with cameras who are photographing famous buildings’.

City Hall, which lies on the south bank of the River Thames near Tower Bridge, houses around 600 staff.

City Hall image

Picture credits: Adam Hinton