Posted: Aug 27, 2009
For most residents and visitors, the most shocking aspect of Southwold's beach is the prices fetched by the brightly painted beach huts overlooking the sand and shingle.
But as a result of coastal erosion further up the Suffolk coast, sunbathers at the genteel resort could soon be confronted with a very different sight.
The town, nicknamed Chelsea-on-Sea, is being considered as a possible alternative venue to one of British first official nudist beaches.
Naturists have already been showing interest in the stretch of heritage coastline in their search for a new site because of its relative seclusion.
Their attention has already raised eyebrows among locals and visitors to the town more famous for its lighthouse, pier, harbour, expensive holiday homes, cliff-top cannon and brewery.
Southwold is 16 miles south of an existing official nudist beach at Corton, near Lowestoft, which opened in 1979 but is to close in November.
The 200 yard long strip has fallen victim to coastal erosion which means there is now 80 per cent less beach space in the area for non-nudists to enjoy.
Waveney district council has ?de-designated? the beach and is now consulting communities along its coast, including Southwold town council, to gauge opinion on relocating the ?naturist facility?.
The area attracts many celebrity visitors including the Prime Minister who was a regular visitor to Southwold beach with his family during a holiday last year.
Joe Annis, a lifeguard there, said of the nudism proposal: ?Personally it would not bother me, but the people of Southwold would go ballistic.
?People here would probably have a heart attack if you ever suggested it. You could not site it on the main beaches here because they are small and we have such a large amount of visitors. It would not be fair to children and families.?
The district council has made it clear that it is not opposed to naturism and believes an alternative location to Corton should be found if at all possible.
Sue Doy, Southwold's mayor, said: ?I have got nothing against it in principle, but I would not want to use it and I do not think Southwold has room for it because it is too crowded with holidaymakers.?
British Naturism, which has around 16,000 members, suggested the resort to the district council as a site several years.
Malcolm Boura, the society's research and liaison officer, said: ?It would appear to be a good location but obviously we need to look at the beach in more detail. We will be putting our views forward during the consultation.?
Holidaymakers were less impressed with the idea of a quintessentially English resort town becoming a haven for nudists.
Jane Pattison, 43, a primary school teacher from London, said: ?I don't want to look at other people's bits.
?I have a friend who likes swimming free so I think she would appreciate it, but it's not for me Â? I am too square.?
Stephen Gregory, 54, from Upminster, Essex, said: ?My personal view is that this is a family resort. If you look around you can see lots of children and I do not think it would be very appropriate.?
Waveney council has been working with British Naturism to establish the needs and wishes of both the naturist and local communities.
Ken Sale, its portfolio holder for the Environment, said: ?At this stage we are 'fact finding' and should any potential site meet the criteria laid down for such a facility we will seek to explore the options further.?
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