Photographer beach ban infringes ‘civil liberties’

October 1, 2009

A photographer who was told by a council official he was not allowed to take pictures on a Dorset beach without a permit – because of a new ‘by-law’ – is lobbying local MPs.

Speaking to Amateur Photographer (AP) he also fears the rule will hit wedding photographers who regularly use beaches for their work.

It has also emerged that photographers must seek permission from Poole Council before taking ‘commercial’ photographs on ‘council-owned land’. The council says photographers also need to prove they have ‘public liability insurance’.

Steve Cook was taking photographs on the council-owned Sandbanks Beach for a charity project when a council warden stopped him.

He displayed a photo rights card, issued last year by the Bureau of Freelance Photographers, but to no avail.

Amid reports that a commercial photography permit is also now required for the borough’s ‘public highways’, the incensed photographer last night wrote to council chiefs and local MPs, Annette Brooke and Robert Syms.

In the letter, seen by AP, Cook blasts the move as ‘petty officialdom’.

He adds: ‘Originally I was told that it was a Poole by-law, now it just seems that there is a secret (i.e. no-one knows about it) directive that all professional photographers need a permit to take photographs in the Borough of Poole, including pavements and public highways.

‘Not only is this blatantly an infringement of civil liberties, going against Home Office and Number 10 advice, but it is totally unworkable.

‘I would need in excess of 20-30 permits a week to carry out my work (as would other pro photographers, including the Daily Echo‘s)?.’

Cook has called for an end to the ‘outrageous restrictions’ on the ‘livelihood and civil liberties of all professional photographers’.

Among those furious at the news is Nigel Atherton, Editor of What Digital Camera magazine.

He said: ‘This kind of story makes me really angry. There seems to be a growing trend among Britain?s local authorities to behave as though they?re running North Korea.

‘Councils should be reminded that they do not ?own? the beaches, roads, parks and other public spaces, they are owned by the public whose taxes pay to upkeep them.

‘Councils are elected by their residents to maintain and look after them on our behalf, not to throw their weight around like tin-pot dictators banning photography and anything else they take a dislike to.’

Poole Council admits that the warden was ‘incorrect’ in telling Cook that the move was the result of a new by-law.

In a statement a council spokesman added: ‘While we are keen to promote our beaches and other locations in Poole for this purpose, we must also balance this with the interests of other beach users and our duty to ensure public safety.’

The incident is the latest in a long line of clashes between photographers and officialdom over the past couple of years – sparking Amateur Photographer?s nationwide campaign to defend the rights of photographers in public places.


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Cook beach photo banPicture, courtesy Steve Cook

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