Beach photographer deemed a safety risk

A photographer who was taking pictures on a beach for a charity has been banned on health and safety grounds, in the latest clash between officialdom and public photographers.

Steve Cook was standing on Sandbanks Beach, Dorset, ready to snap photos for the Help the Heroes charity when a council warden approached him and claimed he was breaching a new by-law.

Although the council’s HQ has since said the warden was wrong, in that the by-law has not come into force, the official was apparently right to confront Mr Cook for snapping on “council-owned land.”

That’s because, under a new permit rule, Poole Council wants photographers to seek its permission before taking “commercial” photographs on property it claims to own, such as beaches.

Alongside asking for official permission, photographers also need to evidence they have “public liability insurance” to cover the risk of injury on property the council upkeeps.

Mr Cook reportedly presented his blue identity card, issued by the Bureau of Freelance Photographers, which spells out his rights as public photographer, but the warden was unmoved.

A BFP spokesman reflected: “Given that the council state that the beach is private property, then...like any owner they can impose restrictions if they so wish. If you are not on public land then our Blue Card may be rendered inapplicable.”

However Nigel Atherton, editor of What Digital Camera magazine, reportedly said councils do not ‘own’ beaches, roads or parks, rather they are owned by the public whose taxes pay to upkeep them.

He blasted: “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.”

Stewart Gibson, of the BFP seemed to agree. He told FreelanceUK: “Areas to which the public have free access, such as beaches or streets, should never be restricted in this way, even for ‘commercial’ photography.”

He said that despite private property owners being free to impose restrictions on photographers, the council had taken “an utterly ludicrous position” in the case of Mr Cook.


Oct 8, 2009
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