Fenland District Council – Naturist Swim Saga

I originally posted this in 2005 after a lengthy battle with Fenland District Council.

Prelude

During the summer of 2004, a change of management along with a “reveiw of child protection policy” led to a ban on children attending naturist swimming events on premisis operated by Fenland District Council. The ban itself was based entirely on the prejudice of a few people, but those who created the ban insisted that it was on the grounds of “Child Protection”.

I feel that it is essential that the naturist movement challenges this type of discrimination wherever it occurs and educates the individuals concerned and of course makes sure that this type of ban is removed.

I would also like to thank John Paine and Malcolm Boura of British Naturism for their personal efforts in negotiating with Fenland District Council.


Date 07 February 2005

While checking the internet to see when the next Whittlesey family naturist swim will be on, I noticed on the website (formerly at) club-soleil.co.uk it stated:

“The council has decided that under 18′s are no longer acceptable. Needless to say we are fighting this decision but for time being children are not admitted”.

Rather shocked at this, I contacted the Hudson Leisure Centre on 01945 584230 to find out if this were true. Staff confirmed that it was true but if I wanted to discuss the matter I would need to speak to Phil Hughes who was based at the nearby George Campbell Leisure Centre 01354 622399 in March (town).

He had already left his office for the day, I instigated a complaint to Fenland District Council via the website http://www.fenland.gov.uk/.


Email Complaint – Stage 1
Date 07 February 2005
Subject: Complaint

Sir,

I have been informed that I am no longer allowed to take my family (my wife and children aged 10, 8 and 5 years) to the naturist swim sessions held monthly at the Manor Leisure Centre, Station Road, Whittlesey. This is apparently due to the Leisure centre adopting a “no under 18′s policy”.

I was of the understanding that council run facilities were for the benefit and use of all, however as a naturist family I feel that we are being directly discriminated against, because of our values, lifestyle and beliefs.

Andrew Crawford


Phone Call – Follow up
Date 08 February 2005

I followed this up with a phone call to Phil Hughes, (the leisure centre manager) and quite a lengthy conversation took place. In that conversation I expressed my disagreement with the ban and in turn Phil Hughes explained that the ban was due to a letter, which they had received from social services. He went on to say that although he was “quite ignorant of naturism” he did not like the idea of “naked children swimming with naked adults” and therefore raised the matter with Cambridgeshire Social Services. The ban then followed.


Letter – Follow up
I then followed up this phone call with a letter to Phil Hughes.
Date 10 February 2005
Re: Naturist families banned from Manor Leisure Centre Whittlesey

Dear Phil,

Further to our recent telephone conversation I would like to clarify a few points with regard to my objection to families being banned from attending the naturist sessions at the Manor Leisure Centre Whittlesey.

Firstly, we raise our children under the naturist philosophy that ones body is not something to be ashamed of and that nudity is a symbol of openness and honesty, for us, naturism is a positive thing and we raise our children to believe that. The fact that we are unable to use this public facility is blatant discrimination against families who choose to raise their children as naturists. Furthermore, I feel that leisure centre management and social services have no business in deciding how we raise our children.

If the management of the leisure centre feel that there is a risk to children by swimming with adults, this is an issue, which needs to be addressed, however, it would be very foolish to think that the wearing of a swimming costume somehow protects children from any potential abuse.

If there is an unacceptable risk to children bathing alongside adults it seems fairer and more logical to remove the threat of abuse than to remove the children. To ban children from naturism is based purely on ignorance and prejudice.

We have faced this situation before, in 2001 we fought long and hard to ensure that we could use George Campbell Leisure Centre and we were not prepared fall victim to the kind of prejudice that we are experiencing now.

Meanwhile I shall continue to strive to have this decision overturned because it goes against something, which I strongly believe in.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Crawford


Fenland District Council Reply – Stage 1
Dated:05 February 2005 [error]
Received 12 February 2005

Email Complaint – Stage 2
Date: 12 February 2005 11:17
Subject: Re: Complaint (Ref: C/321/04)

I have today received a reply from Phil Hughes – Leisure Development Manager who has confirmed in his letter that my family continue to be banned from attending naturist swimming sessions at Manor Leisure Centre Whittlesey.

I am dissatisfied with my response from Mr Hughes as he has not addressed the two issues which I raised. Firstly, that council run facilities are (or at least should be) for the benefit and use of all, and secondly, of the discrimination against us as naturist families being banned from using this facility.

I cannot accept that an employee of Fenland District Council has the right to ban whole groups of people from using Council facilities based on their own prejudice or lack of understanding of a minority group.

This decision appears to have been made with no thought as to how it affects families such as mine and I feel this ban should be lifted immediately. I also feel that the leisure centre management (and social services) have no business anyway in deciding which moral values, which we use to raise our children.

Please therefore take my complaint to the next stage. Thank you, Andrew Crawford


Fenland District Council Reply – Stage 2
Date: 24 February 2005
From Sandra Claxton
Tel 01354 622400 Fax 01354 622259

Our ref: C/321/04
Dear Mr Crawford

COMPLAINT

I refer to your correspondence dated 12 February 2005 regarding the Council’s policy not to permit children to attend naturist swims at our leisure centres. This issue was discussed at a meeting in January between the Council’s Leisure Development Manager, Phillip Hughes and John Paine of British Naturism, along with four other attendees. The outcome resulted in the decision to ban the presence of children under 18 from the naturist swims arranged by Club Soliel.

In reviewing the Council’s child protection policy, concerns were raised about child safety. As such, expert advice was sought from Social Services. It was their advice together with further consideration by Karen Gee, Assistant Chief Executive (Customer & Leisure) and Leisure Portfolio Holder, Councillor Paul Jolley, that prompted the decision to implement the ban. The decision making process is as indicated in Part 2 of the Council’s Constitution.

Child protection must be our primary concern. Our consideration of this matter could not be taken lightly and the decision determined had to be implemented immediately. To date, the Council has not received any further advice to support the reversal of its decision.

As a consequence of the response received from Social Services, the Council intends to strengthen its current child protection policy as it considers that it is in the public’s best interest to do so. As part of this process, we will consult further with relevant organisations including Club Soliel and British Naturism and will of course ensure that social inclusion and equality are taken into account at all times. Phillip Hughes will update you as this exercise progresses.

In the meantime, I hope you find this response helpful.

Yours sincerely Sandra Claxton Strategic Director


Email – Stage 3
Date: 01 Mar 2005
Subject: Re: Complaint C/321/04

Thank you for your reply from Sandra Claxton under stage 2 of the complaints procedure.

I am dissatisfied with my response from Sandra Claxton for the same reasons which I was dissatisfied with my original response from Phil Hughes; this is because they have both failed to address the essence of my complaint. Therefore, please progress my complaint to the next stage.

My complaint falls into two parts

[1] Council run facilities should be for the benefit of all members of the community.

Note: A direct consequence of the ban on persons under the age of 18 from attending naturist events at Manor Leisure Centre is that families such as mine are unable to use swimming facilities provided by the council, (unless of course we are prepared to compromise our principles and beliefs).

[2] This decision is directly discriminatory against naturist families.

The reason given for this ban in Sandra Claxton’s letter was “concerns for child safety”. Whilst I accept that Fenland District Council has a duty to protect the users of its facilities, naturist families are being singled-out and an implication is being made that children of naturist families are in some way more “at risk” than children of non-naturist families. In the absence of any evidence to support this idea it concludes that the decision to ban children from naturist events is based entirely on prejudice toward naturism and it’s principles.

Therefore, until such a time that there is any evidence to suggest that the children of naturist families are in any way more “at risk” than children of non-naturist families, naturist families ought to be treated with equality. Naturism is considered by many parents to be a more moral and psychologically healthier way to raise children, therefore this discrimination being used against naturist families is one which I find to be wholly unacceptable.

Andrew Crawford


Local Press Feature
Date: 16 March 2005
The following article appeared in the “Fenland Citizen” newspaper, Wednesday March 16 2005

Fenland District Council Reply – Stage 3
Date: 23 March 2005

Below is a copy of the so called “expert advice” from Social Services

 

Notes on the Social Services letter (By A Crawford)

[Paragraph 1] The author is committing to paper “some reservations” as discussed. This paragraph confirms that this letter was not written to Fenland District Council as advice in whether children should or should not attend naturist swimming.

[1] It does not complicate the issue if children are involved; naturism is not illegal.

[2] It is typical for children of naturist families to see other people without clothes on a regular, and semi regular basis. There is no evidence to suggest that children are in any way harmed by the sight of other (naked) people, whether that be regularly or occasionally.

[3] Seeing naked people is a part of the naturist lifestyle and considered normal for naturist children. Why does informed consent differ from any other activity, which children participate in? The writer clearly has no grasp of the naturist concept.

[4] Most children are brought as part of naturist family groups, if there were a friend of a child attending then consent would be sought from that friend’s parent. Standard practice in naturist groups is for parents to give consent for their children to attend any naturist event if not accompanied by either parent. In contrast to a conventional swimming session, children between 8 and 18 may attend without any parental consent whatsoever or even being accompanied by an adult.

[5] Lifeguards uncomfortable with what exactly? Children are seeing the situation from an entirely different perspective; the (non-naturist) lifeguards are adults in a working environment, whereas the children are attending a family leisure activity. If there are any specific reasons for the lifeguards to be concerned they have a duty to report this.

[6] Sessions are “closed” because Fenland District Council refuses to run completely open sessions. But sessions are only “closed” in the sense that persons attending are preferably known to the organisers, or can provide ID and they are aware that it is naturist session. Otherwise sessions are as open as conventional swim sessions run by the council.

[7] The sessions have been running for almost 9 years without any known issues. They can be found in naturist magazine adverts and on the Internet. There is a very strong implication in this note that naturists would be prime targets for paedophiles, but there is no evidence to support this view and is entirely prejudicial. Surveys have also been conducted which show that there is very little public objection to naturism anyway.

[Paragraph 2] There is an assumption that the general public would not find these sessions morally acceptable (based on the risks to children). There is no evidence to suggest that children are at any more risk in naturist sessions those non-naturist sessions, this viewpoint is entirely prejudicial.

[Paragraph 3] The comparison with naturist cinema going is incorrect. “Cinema In The Buff” held at “The Grand” in Ramsey and is a social function for local naturists. A film is shown and entrance is restricted to the film classification. Children are welcome to and have attended these sessions. There was no outcry, apart from a local religious leader who failed to rally much support over his objections.

[Paragraph 4] This paragraph confirms that this letter is not “advice” at all but a confirmation of points discussed by the individuals concerned.

To Conclude Whoever wrote this letter clearly has an obscured concept of naturism and the ideology of those who participate. This letter was not written as intended advice on which to make council policy.

Needless to say I was unhappy with the content of the letter from social services. firstly it was entirely based on prejudice and secondly because it was factually incorrect. I immediately contacted Peter Wilson of Social Services to allow him to explain what it was all about. He did not return my call, therefore I made an official complaint to Cambridgeshire County Council.


Follow up to Fenland District Council – Letter
Date: 25 March 2005
Re: Naturist swimming ban.

Dear Brian Partridge,

I confirm that I have received your response to my complaint under Stage 3 of the complaints procedure along with a copy of the letter from Peter Wilson of Social Services dated 13 October 2004.

I would like to express my disappointment in the way in which this complaint has been handled so far; not only has it has taken some 6 weeks for Fenland District Council to be frank about the reasons as to why this ban came about, but also because the essence of my complaint has still not been resolved. That is, that council run facilities should be for the benefit of all members of the community and that the creation of this ban is prejudicial toward naturists.

Also, the letter which you have finally provided me with for the reason behind the ban does constitute “expert advice” at all, but merely confirms that a discussion took place between an employee of Social Services and an employee of Fenland District Council both of whom share reservations over children at naturist swimming sessions.

The letter contains a number of points, which confirms that the two individuals involved have little knowledge or understanding of naturism and their viewpoint is entirely distorted by their own prejudice. Therefore, it is not, in my opinion, acceptable evidence upon which to make council policy, which is then later used to discriminate directly against a minority group who share a different moral code.

It is now clear, that by creating this ban, the council have indeed acted in a prejudiced, bigoted and also rather underhand way, however the still ban remains in force.

Unless there is a prompt and satisfactory conclusion to this issue it is my intention to take the matter concerning the ban to the ombudsman and also to make a formal complaint to Cambridgeshire County Council over the letter, concerning the content, how it was solicited from social services, and the way in which it was finally used.

Yours sincerely Andrew Crawford

Cc: Cllr. P Jolley; Karen Gee; Chucks Golding; Candy Richards; Phil Hughes; Sandra Claxton, Lucy Henson.


Email Complaint to Cambridgeshire County Council
Date: 29 March 2005

Sir

My complaint concerns a letter, which was written by an employee of Cambridgeshire County Council, Peter Wilson on behalf of Social Services to Phil Hughes of Fenland District Council’s Leisure Services, this letter is dated 13 October 2004.

The letter contains a number of points and opinions, which are unsubstantiated by any factual evidence, but appear to be based entirely on the above two persons prejudice toward the naturist way of life. I personally resent, and I am bitterly offended by some of the ill-informed opinions, and the bigotry, expressed in this letter.

Fenland District Council has interpreted this letter as “expert advice” and since used this letter to help form council policy. They have also circulated this letter as part of their defence for reaching their decision.

To resolve this issue, a follow-up needs to be made to point out that this letter merely expresses opinions and concerns, which Peter Wilson and Phil Hughes had discussed, and that it should not be interpreted as factual evidence or expert advice. This will help ensure that no further harm comes from circulation of this letter and that it is not misused in a similar fashion again.

Yours sincerely Andrew Crawford


Email Reply – Cambridgeshire County Council
Date: 31 March 2005
Subject: Complaint regarding Peter Wilson.

Dear Mr Crawford,

Thank you for your email. I am Mr Wilson’s line manager and as such am responsible for responding to complaints about any actions he may be responsible for.

I was made aware of the letter to Phil Hunter [Hughes] yesterday following an Email from Malcolm Boura of British Naturism. Mr Wilson is currently on holiday and consequently I have been unable to speak to him directly however I have considered the letter that he wrote to Mr Hunter and have spoken to Brian Partridge Strategic Director with Fenland District Council.

Having read and re considered the letter we have withdrawn the letter in its entirety. The letter was written as advice rather than unequivocal guidance however I accept the fact that the phrasing was unfortunate and I apologise for any problems misinterpretation of the advice may have caused.

I gather from Mr Boura that he will contacting you to talk the issue through.

Yours faithfully Mary Milton Assistant Director Children’s Social Services


Note:
Cambridgeshire County Council took less than 48 hours to make a decision to withdraw the letter and apologise. I would like to thank Mary Milton of Cambridgeshire County Council Social Services for her prompt and sensible reply. Why can’t Fenland District Council work in the same manner?


Follow up to Fenland District Council – Letter
Date: 04 April 2005
Re: Naturist swimming ban.

Dear Brian Partridge,

Further to my previous correspondence of 25 March 2005, I have since made a formal complaint to Cambridgeshire County Council’s Social Services concerning the letter, which prompted the decision to implement the ban on children attending naturist events.

I have since received a reply from Mary Milton, where she accepts that the phrasing was “unfortunate” and apologises for any problems caused by misinterpretation. More importantly she explained that they had withdrawn the letter in its entirety.

Whilst it may have been obvious to Mary Milton why the letter ought be withdrawn, I am concerned that it was not so equally obvious to those who made the decision in the first place. This is particularly highlighted in so much as it was Phil Hughes, who was in effect the co-writer of the letter as the contents related to points which he discussed in a meeting at his request. It therefore can only be assumed that Phil Hughes led Peter Wilson in these points, which he then later committed to paper. I also find it hard to believe that Peter Wilson could have known the situation that he was being placed in, which would allow him to write such ill informed and incorrect remarks, which would be later relied on by Fenland District Council to discriminate against a minority group.

What also now certain, is that in creating this ban, there has been a certain amount of maladministration, on part of Fenland District Council (perhaps even misconduct by certain employees too), and that the ban itself was based on the unsubstantiated idea that children of naturist families, attending naturist swimming sessions along with their parents are more at risk of danger, than those of non-naturist families at regular swimming sessions (accompanied or not).

It is also now clear why Fenland District Council did not release this letter upon receipt of my original complaint of 07 February 2005, as the letter itself confirms that the ban was made on the basis of prejudice toward naturism and by the bigotry of a few.

Presumably now the ban will be lifted. I would appreciate it if you could reply to confirm this.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Andrew Crawford
Cc: Cllr. P Jolley; Karen Gee; Chucks Golding; Candy Richards; Phil Hughes; Sandra Claxton, Lucy Henson.


Reply from Fenland District Council
Date: 13 April 2005

 

Local Press Feature
Date: 13 April 2005
The following article appeared in the “Fenland Citizen” newspaper, Wednesday April 13 2005

Date: 20 April 2005
I have been informed today that the council have now lifted the ban. If this is true then presumebly they will issue an apology to all concerned.


Date: 25 April 2005
I have today received the following reply.

Conclusion

The ban has now been lifted because, upon investigation, Fenland District Council have now realised that there was no need for it in the first place.

To summarise this ban:

  • Was introduced entirely due to prejudice.
  • Was an insult to naturist families.
  • There never was any so-called “expert advice” and child protection was merely being used as an excuse.
Overall, I am totally disgusted with all of those who created the ban and am amazed that it had to be challenged so strongly.

Club Soleil particularly welcome families who may have been put off attending their naturist swim sessions.

Please note that any opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of “Club Soleil” or of “British Naturism” (CCBN).

 

One Response to Fenland District Council – Naturist Swim Saga

  • Xavia says:

    I Was looking for naturist swim sessions in the Fenland area and stumbled upon this article, I have to say I am very impressed with your determination and patience.
    I’m pleased you managed to get to the bottom of the cause and help the ban be removed.