Eastney Naturists

Campaigning to Save the Beach

Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet are meeting again (Monday 7th July at 1:00pm) to discuss QinetiQ’s latest legal action & threats of Judicial Review.  Once again the council officers are recommending that the Council hand the (public open) land over to QineitQ to allow them to widen the access road to the development site.  The report can be viewed on the Council’s website

My Deputation to Cabinet – 7th July 2008

Good afternoon – I’m here once again to speak up for the Naturists who use the beach at Eastney.

QinetiQ have accused us of being “used as agents of those whose aim is to simply oppose development…”.  I resent this outrageous misrepresentation – Let me be quite clear – I’m here to speak up on behalf of the naturists.

They have misrepresented our aims and have attempted to smear the naturists with a number of laughable and misleading allegations. 

As you might imagine, we’re extremely unhappy and we intend follow it up in some detail.
In the meantime, perhaps you should ask the question: What other misleading statements have QinetiQ made to you?

We are vocal opponents of this resolution.  Not for the reasons put forward by QinetiQ though.  We have always maintained that if this public land (whether it’s 10m or 27m or some other unspecified amount) really must be handed over, then it should be tied to handing the beach back to the public – not just under Countryside & Rights of Way legislation with all the loopholes that entails, but to do as Councillor Hancock suggested – give an equivalent part of the beach back to the Citythis seems an entirely reasonable “Quid Pro Quo”.

QinetiQ have made it quite clear they have no intention of allowing the naturists to remain. 
•    They have told the press that they did not intend to keep the beach for the nudists
•    They have told us that “As landowners we have the legal power to close the beach at our discretion”
•    QinetiQ’s solicitor calls us “trespassers”

Who will be next to receive this special treatment from QinetiQ?  The fishermen, the dog-walkers, or just anyone who doesn’t own one of the luxury flats?

What options are open for naturism to continue at Eastney?
•    As I stated earlier, QinetiQ could simply hand the beach back to the City
•    If we really are to be excluded from this privatised beach, then the council could designate another part of the beach!  A solution that the local press & even QinetiQ have suggested!

We’re not asking for much – just the chance to continue to use Eastney in the quiet & considerate way that naturism has been pursued there for over 60 years – surely the Council has had time to see that we really are a quiet, responsible section of the community and do not deserve to be discriminated against or excluded.

We’re not even asking for lots of money to be spent on us (which must be somewhat novel for the council to hear!) – you already have the signs (taken down in September) – just put them up a little further along the sea-front. 

Simple naturism on the beach is not unlawful (this was confirmed by the Council and by the Police to the Eastney Forum in 2000).  However, it can be re-assuring, both for naturists and for the general public, to designate part of a beach as being for naturist use.  This avoids doubt and deflects confrontation.

Naturism is not some seedy activity – I would not be standing here arguing for its continuance if that were so.  It is a decent, lawful activity that has recognised health benefits and, increasingly, recognised economic benefits. 

It is now time that the council had a policy on naturism on its beaches and the Eastney Group, along with British Naturism (the national organisation) would be happy to work with the council to help develop such a policy.

•    Don’t just write us off
•    Don’t allow the greed of “profit at all costs” development to disadvantage your residents, your Council Tax payers and the many visitors to this City

My Report of Cabinet Meeting – 7 July 2008 – 1:00pm

I gave my deputation (as above)

Followed by a deputation from the Friends of Eastney Beach.  David Price expressed concern about residents of the new flats opposing public access to the beach.  He asked 3 main questions:
Has an agreement on public access been reached?  Is the agreement watertight?  What is the status of any agreement now?  He then went on to question how much land is to be handed over.

Mark Austin’s deputation was mainly about his concerns of a conflict of interest with Savills providing a new valuation as one of their key clients (listed in a document on their website) was QinetiQ.

Cllr Luke Stubbs told the Cabinet that they needed to find a way out of the mess that they found themselves in.  He urged the cabinet to try to keep access to the beach and to get more money for the land.  He also queried Savill’s conflict of interest with QinetiQ as a key client.

Mr Lawther (City Solicitor): said he was not concerned about the conflict of interest as the cabinet did not need to rely on Savill’s valuation – they has 2 other valuations (one internal, the other from an outside agency).  He did not feel that this was a material conflict.

Mr Hutchings: The technical complexity of the valuation limited the council’s choice of company.  They asked 3 companies for a valuation, 2 of which declined – leaving Savills

Cllr Vernon-Jackson: suggested that the cabinet set aside Savills’ valuation from the deliberations

Mr Lawther: clarified (?) just what QinetiQ were asking for this time – he told the meeting that the minimum strip necessary was 12m.  He said that QinetiQ could choose to go with the existing access road.

Cllr Hancock: If they go with the existing narrow road, then who has to maintain the road?

Mr Lawther: QinetiQ if it is not adopted, PCC if it is.

Cllr Hancock: Can QinetiQ put rules on who is allowed to use the beach?  Asked can we put the signs back up?

Mr Lawther: Yes

Cllr Hancock: the council took over a lot of land at Eastney in 1978 – do we know exactly what was given to the city?  What is there to say that QinetiQ actually own the beach?

Mr Lawther: Satisfied that the beach is QinetiQ’s property.

Cllr Hall:  Under Countryside & Rights of Way – read out an email from Tony Margrave (of PCC’s legal dept) that the naturists are not guaranteed access.

Mr Lawther: We are getting the best access to the beach.  QinetiQ will not give us more.

Cllr Hall: Could we add a clause to the deed of release limiting development to 131 dwellings and no more?  Concerned that QinetiQ would go for a larger development.

Mr Lawther: It is not proposed to limit – no limitiation.

Cllr Hall: Questioned the use of Savills, given that QinetiQ is a “key client”

Cllr Fazackerly: Why didn’t PCC pick up on the “key client” statement – expressed reservations about the width of the right of way

Cllr Vernon-Jackson:  It is Savills’ duty to notify us of a Conflict of Interest – not for us to have to go find it out.

Mr Lawther: replied that the cabinet were not relying on Savills’ valuation, so don’t pay it any heed.

Cllr Madden: worried about the dismissal of one of the valuations.  He was also worried about access to the beach.  He suggested that the beach could be closed for cynical Health & Safety reasons.  If that happened how long could the ebach be closed for?

Mr Lawther: stressed the temporary nature of any closure.  He doubted that either the developers or the eventual residents would close the beach.

Cllr Scott: Who decides the reason for closing the beach?  QinetiQ!  The deed makes it possible for them to close the beach for as long as they like.

Mr Lawther: At present we have no right of access – QinetiQ would have to show good reason for closing the beach.

Cllr Scott:  Do the naturists have some rights?

Mr Lawther: Currently there are no rights of access.

Cllr Hancock: If QinetiQ closed the beach, could we challenge that?  QinetiQ cannot erect a physical barrier to access.

Mr Lawther: The deed enhances our rights to better than we have now.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson compared the offer to giving us a half-full glass instead of an empty one.

Cllr Stagg: queried what would happen between now and the first occupation.

Mr Lawther: stressed that this was getting the best that we can.  That QinetiQ would dedicate the beach as access land under Countryside & Rights of Way on first occupation of the flats – there would be an interim measure to keep the beach open for public access

Cllr Scott: asked for an explanation of “access land”

Cllr Hancock: Do we have a reasonable chance of resisting the sale of this land?  What are the costs if we do.  Is there any reasonable hope of success?

Mr Lawther: The council has no grounds.  If the council persists in rejecting this offer, then QinetiQ will move to a Judicial Review.  & Counsel’s advise is that they will succeed.  It will mean that the council had acted unreasonably.  PCC’s case is very weak.

Cllr Hancock:  what is your estimate?

Mr Nayle (PCC Legal Dept): £200,000 is the figure put forward.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson:  Can we add in a clause to limit this minimum strip of land limits development to 131 dwellings only?

Mr Checkley: Can’t limit – to an outline planning consent

The meeting was then deferred for a short time until Mr Lawther returned with the wording of Public Access under CRoW

Mr Lawther: insisted that the wording of CRoW was not relevant.  This is additional to what we have now.  Subject to certain reservations, the public may have access for open air recreation.  Could not give a full explanation of CRoW.

There are no grounds to refuse this.  It would mean that the council had acted unreasonably.

The strip would be 12m – less than has been talked about in the past.

Cllr Hall: We were told that we had to accept it at previous meetings – but now the terms have been improved.  It is my job to stand up for the people of Portsmouth – there is lots that we could go for.  Suggested amendments to some of the wording –
would like illegal acts to be as defined by the Police, not QinetiQ
would like Health & Safety reasons to be defined by H&S Executive, not QinetiQ

Cllr Vernon-Jackson:  Can we add these?

Mr Lawther:  We have to proceed today otherwise QinetiQ will go to the High court.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson: Advice is very clear

Cllr Hancock: Can’t just close something because of criminal activity.  QinetiQ have to behave in a reasonable manner.  We have to be realistic – if the advice we getting is correct.

Cllr Mason: Do the rights over the strip of land only last until the road is adopted?

Mr Lawther: Yes.

Cllr Mason:  We’re getting access land in perpetuity – then we’re getting a good deal

Cllr Madden: If QinetiQ close the beach (whether for H&S or criminal activity reasons) will they tell us the reasons?

Mr Lawther: We would ask them

Cllr Vernon-Jackson: If QinetiQ closed the beach, what would happen if we disagreed with them?

Mr Lawther: PCC could go to court and QinetiQ would be over-ruled if they have acted unreasonably

Cllr Vernon-Jackson:  This does produce some guarantee where there was none.

Vote taken:
7 voted for QinetiQ to get the strip of land
2 voted against (Cllrs Hall & Scott)

My Observations and some Comments:

Lots of questions were asked by members of the Cabinet.  Some of them were answered – too many were not!

Where does this leave the naturists?
Well, QinetiQ have now undertaken to guarantee public access to the beach.  Portsmouth City Council (through the City Solictor) appear to have implied that they will go to court if QinetiQ (or their successors) close the beach without good reason.

Not as good as handing the beach back to the city though! 

It does seem it is now time that Portsmouth City Council dropped its policy of not having a policy on naturism.

Cllr Hancock was assured that the signs could go back up on council land – let’s aim to make sure that actually happens – write to your councillor – write to Cllr Hancock – remind them all of this assurance!

© Eastney Naturist Beach Liaison Group- Eastney Naturists