Naturists take on development company over fears of naked complaints

Naturists on Eastney Beach in Portsmouth
Over 149 people have publicly objected to the plans for the Naval gunnery that overlooks the beach - SIMON CZAPP/SOLENT NEWS & PHOTO AGENCY

Naturists are in a row with a beachside development company over fears the new residents may complain about seeing them nude.

Eastney Beach in Portsmouth, Hants, has allowed naked sunbathers for over 70 years and is one of only a handful still in use on the South Coast.

But plans to build 134 homes in a derelict Naval gunnery building that overlooks the beach have worried devoted naturists who fear new tenants may “complain that there are naked people” and push them out.

Orangestar Capital first submitted plans to the city council to transform Fraser Range in 2018. It described the development as a “fantastic opportunity to regenerate a derelict site” with homes of “exceptional quality” for affluent property buyers.

The apartment plans will also provide a £2 million infrastructure investment to Portsmouth city council.

But the plans have received a huge backlash 149 people publicly objecting to it.

‘We’re not embarrassed to be naked’

One objector, David Stares, said he has been using the beach for over 50 years and said the “planned sea defences” leave “no space on the beach for the public”.

He wrote: “I think this is a ruse to remove the naturalists that have used this part of the beach for decades who will have nowhere to go unless there is a designated area for them to go.

“Whilst a minority in the community they are entitled to use the beach as is everyone else, and I feel that they are not being treated fairly or being considered in this application.

“As those wishing to buy a beachfront property may not be very accommodating to nudists laid opposite their expensive apartments during the summer.”

He continued: “I think that this is an abuse of power and will detract from the local community who have used the beach for many years.”

Barry Knell, 67, has been using the shingle beach since 2000 and said: “From a naturist point of view, we’re fairly shy and retiring people but we’re not embarrassed to be naked and to be seen.

“But, it’s the thought that if they put the development of homes right there, overlooking the beach, they probably won’t inform the buyers properly beforehand that the beach in front of them in the summer is going to be covered with naked bodies.”

The retired civil servant said the main worry for other naturists who use the beach is that there may be “complaints” over the beach use and that the proposed boulder sea defences will take up too much space.

‘A change in character’

Mr Knell said: “We don’t mind people seeing us, people see us all the time, but what we don’t need is people complaining about us being there when we’ve been doing it for as long as everybody can remember.

“The effect is likely to be that there will be complaints that there are naked people on the beach.

“We understand the need for sea defences, sea levels are rising so that’s just one of those things.”

Mr Knell added: “What I should point out of course is that it’s not actually illegal, in this country, to be naked in a public place.”

A spokesman from Orangestar Capital said: “There will of course be a change in character of the locality as a result of the new homes on the site but this need not preclude naturist access to the beach.”

Historically, the site was used to train the Royal Navy throughout the Cold War as a gunnery until it closed in the 1980s.

The plans have undergone a series of changes following concerns raised by The Environment Agency (EA) and Coastal Partners (CP), an organisation committed to preventing coastal erosion across the Solent.

The six-and-a-half acre site is next to the Chichester and Langstone Harbours Special Protection Area, which protects wintering bird species.

Natural England asked for details regarding a number of matters which may have a potential impact on the SPA.

A spokesman for the developers said: “We have been working for over six years with the local community, the council and other organisations to bring forward this derelict site for much needed new homes.

If approved, the council will receive over £2 million from the applicant as part of the community infrastructure levy.