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Celebrities back plans to expand naturism on Hampstead Heath

PUBLISHED: 14:06 04 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:14 07 September 2010

Katie Davies HUNDREDS of campaigners including Julian Clary and human rights protester Peter Tatchell are backing a scheme to increase the area for nude male sunbathing on Hampstead Heath. A petition with more than 1,000 signatures will be presented to t

Katie Davies

HUNDREDS of campaigners including Julian Clary and human rights protestor Peter Tatchell are backing a scheme to increase the area for nude male sunbathing on Hampstead Heath.

A petition with more than 1,000 signatures will be presented to the new Chairman of the Heath today (Thursday) calling for greater space for the naturists, expanding the small concrete plot they currently use next to the changing room at the men's swimming pond.

The campaign appeared in its early days on the letters pages of the Ham&High last May, when naturist Michael Peacock complained about the lack of space.

Now, a year on, he is hoping he has enough public and celebrity support to free the nudists.

The 50-year-old bather said: "Last year the Ham&High published my letter and a cartoon on the subject and it's all kicked off from there. I, like many others, sent off my comments to the City of London Corporation but they were totally ignored. I decided to try to get something done and set up a petition."

A total of 1,061 people are now backing his bid, which will be presented to the new chairman of the Heath Management Committee, Michael Welbank, at the bathing enclosure this morning.

"I think we are being fair and reasonable but we want the majority of the changing room area moved over for nude sunbathing," Mr Peacock continued.

"I want this to lead to a debate about why there aren't more naturist spaces in the UK. On a hot day there is only space for 28 guys and a lot of men are unable to use it.

"I hope the Corporation will take this debate seriously and expand the space. They could do so much to improve that facility - ideally, one day we'd like the partition removed completely."

But the move is unlikely to go unopposed and looks set to pit the nudists against conservationists and more traditional swimmers who want visitors to keep covered up.

Chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society Tony Hillier said: "I think we would oppose this. No one wants to see nude men out on the Heath and extending the enclosure would be unacceptable. That is building on the Heath and we don't approve of that."

Chairman of the Heath's United Swimmers Association, Robert Sutherland Smith, says the enclosure is often used by gay men as a meeting place and the petition has nothing to do with a debate on naturism.

"The ponds are for swimming and the changing area is for people to change to go swimming - sunbathing is a secondary function," he said. "It is for men to meet other men and it is advertised like that and that is why people are attracted to it.

"We are all grown up and people have different preferences but swimming at the ponds takes priority. This is not naturism - there is no nature around or grass between their toes - they just lie on a concrete floor cooking.

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