Naturists Campaigning for Naturism

Hampstead Heath campaign – update

There have been numerous radio and TV interviews about this over the past week, and the situation is summed up in the London Evening Standard at :

6 Responses to Hampstead Heath campaign – update

  • I find it infuriating when Naturist are fobbed off with statements like:

    A spokesman for the City of London Corporation, which manages Hampstead Heath, said: “Public nudity on Hampstead Heath is prohibited by our bylaws and could lead to prosecution as a criminal offence.”

    It’s like when asked why something is prohibited, they respond by saying, “Because it is!”.

    Who makes these byelaws? How are they able to do so without opposition from the public? Why are so may of Britain’s estimated 3.7 million Naturists silent and complacent?

    • I have issues with the figure of 3.7 million naturists, but let it pass. Please see the reply given to Chris Lamb Richard. But you’re right. It does seem that naturists as a whole are being fobbed off as though we are naughty children not doing as mum or dad tells them, or when they don’t know the answer to the question, “Why?”

  • In a generally sympathetic account of NAG’s campaign, it is a pity that Chris Baynes perpetuates the popular myth that nudity on the Heath is currently prohibited. He begins by saying, “The Naturist Action Group claimed strict restrictions on stripping off were founded on “misguided preconceptions and prejudices”.” I do hope that isn’t what NAG said, because there are no such “strict restrictions” in place. Chris Baynes continues, “Being naked is prohibited under bylaws in most London parks.” That is totally untrue, and I hope that NAG didn’t put that idea into his head. Neither the Hampstead Heath Byelaws, nor the Royal Parks Regulations, nor Westminster Parks and Gardens Byelaws, for example, make any mention of nudity. A spokesman for the City of London Corporation is then quoted as saying, “Public nudity on Hampstead Heath is prohibited by our bylaws and could lead to prosecution as a criminal offence.” Again that is simply not true, though it might be what the Hampstead Heath management would like people to believe. When naturists are interviewed by journalists about nudity in public spaces, they would do well to counter damaging myths like these, and ensure that the journalist receives accurate information about the relevant law and byelaws.

    • Naturally, as I was not there, so cannot confirm what was said exactly but in all the published reports the City of London Corporation was consistent in stating that public nudity was against the byelaws for the heath.

      It is true, Chris, that the byelaws do not specifically mention nudity, but Byelaw 32 states: “No person shall in any open space commit any nuisance contrary to public decency or propriety.” This is generally being taken to be the byelaw they are referring to and it is, to be frank, ambiguous and unclear. From the language used, refers to another age, to when it would be considered against public decency for a gentleman to be seen in his “undergarments”.

      This is a summary of what is the website explaining the history of Hampstead Heath’s Byelaws says. “They were made on 1st November 1932 and came into operation on 1st April 1933, by the London County Council, building on the provisions of the London Council (General Powers) Act 1890, the London County Council (General Powers) Act 1898, and London County Council (General Powers) Act 1923, and now has effect by virtue of the London Government Act 1963, Article 33 of the London Authorities (Property, etc) Order 1964…” To cut a long story short all the powers that were gathered by the London County Council (LCC) were passed onto the Greater London Council (GLC) in the mid-60s before being transferred, when the GLC was dissolved, to the City of London Corporation under The London Government Reorganisation (Hampstead Heath) Order 1989.

      I suspect that they were transferred wholesale, without review at any point for the appropriateness of the wording and may… I don’t know… originate from 1932, if not before. Baring in mind the text of Byelaw 35: “No person in a verminous or offensive condition shall lie about in any open space or be upon or occupy any seat therein,” it is entirely possible.

      Chris, you have stated with total conviction that the statement made by Hampstead Heath Management is erroneous. Can you point to an Act, Order or some other statutory instrument that would contradict them?

      Anyway, I have already suggested to John Paine and others that we should look to find out when Byelaw 32 was first written to see it can be challenged purely on relevance and appropriateness, considering the ambiguousness of the language used.

  • In answer to Reg, it is pointless to look for some external piece of legislation that proves that the City of London’s statement is wrong. What proves that they are incorrect is the absence of any mention of nudity in the byelaws that they claim prohibit nudity on Hampstead Heath. Just read the byelaws and you can see that they are wrong.
    It may well be that they believe Byelaw 32 prohibits nudity, but it does not. The wording refers only to public decency or propriety. In modern times some may feel that public nudity breaches this byelaw but many others do not. I do not believe that a successful prosecution could be brought against someone peacefully sunbathing naked in a quiet corner of the Heath unless this was specifically prohibited by a byelaw. The imprecise wording of Byelaw 32 can be interpreted in numerous ways, but is too vague to allow the Heath management to assert unequivocally that it prohibits nudity.
    However, challenging Byelaw 32 would be unwise, since it would simply invite the City of London to substitute a byelaw that explicitly prohibits nudity. Instead, let us continue to assert that nudity in itself is not covered by this byelaw, and only challenge it if the authorities try to use it to mount a prosecution of naturists.

    • Chris Lamb: Take your point about challenging bye-law 32; the devil you know, etc. But I think your explanation why the City of London Corporation is in error is dancing on a pinhead, which is a gift to lawyers and will charge you silly hourly rates for the privilege. Anyway, I don’t think the London group are interested in such a course of action, but it would be another arrow in their quiver if they can demonstrate the interpretation of the corporation is using is flawed because of changes in the common understanding of what the text means, from when they were fist set down (presumably in 1932 if not before) and now. Just an idea.

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