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Nudists lose extra sunbathing space on Heath

PUBLISHED: 11:21 19 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:33 07 September 2010

THE campaign to double the size of the nude sunbathing area on Hampstead Heath looks to have been derailed after a damning report by the City of London Corporation. More than 1,000 people signed a petition calling for a large part of the chang

Tan Parsons

THE campaign to double the size of the nude sunbathing area on Hampstead Heath looks to have been derailed after a damning report by the City of London Corporation.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition calling for a large part of the changing area at the men's swimming pond to be given over for nude sunbathing - which has already informally commandeered a smaller section of the area.

The campaign was backed by Julian Clary and human rights protester Peter Tatchell but the corporation has now recommended the application be rejected, saying the swimmers' groups they questioned, including the United Swimmers Association, the Highgate Lifebuoys and the Kenwood Ladies Pond Association, were universally opposed to the idea of more nude sunbathing space. Naturist Michael Peacock, who has spearheaded the sunbathers' campaign, was furious and branded the report a whitewash.

He said: "They took standings from all the users except the naturists. They have not even acknowledged that we exist. We are treated like lepers. We are an embarrassment to them."

Mr Peacock also took offence at the report's suggestion that the sight of nude sunbathers could be offensive to some people - particularly parents with children who use the swimming facility.

"Why should a child be offended by seeing the clothes we were all born in? Where's the tolerance," he said. "Why not put a roof over our heads in case the birds are offended by naked flesh?

"If we had been consulted then some of the absurd findings in this report could have been addressed. For example, the claim that 'recreationalists' would be denied the right to play badminton on the same plot of land - surely on cooler days and winter periods it would not be an issue?"

Meanwhile, Robert Sutherland Smith, chairman of the United Swimmers Association of Hampstead Heath, was delighted by the news.

He said: "The swimming ponds are obviously for swimming. That's why they are there. In the changing area that this group wishes to claim, more than 75 per cent is needed by people to get changed for swimming. That's its function.

"My personal position is that it is distasteful for grown men to sunbathe naked in this area. It would be appalling if after 100 years of tradition people were not able to go swimming because of a lack of facilities.

"Refusing this group permission is doing the greatest good for the greatest number."

A City of London spokeswoman said: "Following wide consultation with swimming groups, it has been recommended to the Hampstead Heath Management Committee that the petitioners' proposal, to approximately double the area available for nude sunbathing, at the expense of changing accommodation, should not be agreed.

"The primary purpose of the Men's Bathing Pond is to provide swimming facilities, and nude sunbathing is an ancillary activity. The City of London has a duty to ensure the needs of all groups are considered and to achieve a balanced approach."

The Heath Management Committee meeting at which the final decision will be made about the nude sunbathing area is being held on Monday (November 23).

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