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Robobeachcop demands licence from Poole snapper

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If you go down to the beach in Poole, make sure that in addition to the sun cream you're also carrying a licence for that dangerous piece of photographic kit.

The latest news from the costa geriatrica - aka Branksome Chine in Poole – is that snappers should expect to be stopped and quizzed on their photographic activity, all in the interests of health and safety.

Last week it was the turn of staff photographer Hattie Miles from the local Daily Echo to be questioned by one of the robo-beachguards. Identifying himself only as "Beach 8" – which we sincerely believe to be his identity, rather than location – he reportedly demanded to see a licence and then told her she shouldn’t be taking pictures without one.

Coastal works manager at Poole council Stuart Terry then weighed in with the claim that the beach was council land and it was "standard industry practice" to seek permission before taking pictures.

"We make the reasonable request of asking professional photographers and film-makers to alert our staff to their plans in advance when using council land, including Poole beaches, for commercial shoots," Terry said.

"This serves only to ensure that the needs of professional film-makers and photographers are properly managed and do not unduly interfere with the safety and enjoyment of other beach users.

"We would like to assure the public and commercial organisations that it is not our intention to restrict or prevent photographers or film-makers using Poole’s beaches."

We spoke to Poole Council in an effort to get to the bottom of the affair. They were quick to reassure us that there was no requirement for a licence to take photos on Poole beaches. So did Mr 8 actually tell someone that they needed one? Their spokesman was unable to help us with that.

What about the guidelines? Where can individuals obtain a copy of them? They were not, according to the Poole spokesman, available on the web – but he was unable to explain exactly where they might be found.

So what of the basis for stopping someone from taking photos? It was, he explained, a requirement based on courtesy, and for the purposes of protecting the safety of those on the beaches. Ms Miles, according to a spokesman on the Daily Echo, was carrying a relatively innocuous SLR.

Poole Council are not without form on this issue. A photograph accompanying the story shows the same guard apparently approaching another photographer: and in October 2009, freelance photographer Steve Cook claims that a council official said he was not allowed to take pictures on Sandbanks, another Poole beach, without a permit.

Mr Cook alleges that the official says this was because of a new by-law - despite the fact that the official council line is that no such law exists.

Clive Smith, Head of Leisure Services for the Borough of Poole, said: "The code of practice is intended to support and manage activities on beaches in Poole but we understand it has caused concern among some photographers.

"We would like to reassure people that the council has no desire to restrict or prevent photography on Poole's beaches. We have reaffirmed the guidance given to beach wardens and they have been advised not to approach photographers and fim-makers unless their activities present a risk to public safety or are likely to cause serious offence, disruption, or obstruction to other beach users." ®

Bootnote

Old-school photo-journalists may have fond memories of the Nikon "F" series. This was the weapon of choice for many snappers working in the 60s and 70s on account of its near indestructible nature and the assertion (undoubtedly apocryphal) that in a tight corner, it could always be used as a means to incapacitate any assailant.

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