Brighton Beach Christmas Swim Threatened By 'Nanny State' Council

'..it is counter-productive to health.'

24/12/2016 20:09 GMT | Updated 24/12/2016 20:14 GMT
Paul Hackett / Reuters

One of the English south coast’s oldest Christmas traditions is under threat from ‘nanny state’ local council officials, a campaigner has said.

Brighton’s annual Christmas Day dip has taken place almost every year since 1860, initially under the guidance of the city’s swimming club. 

The event has grown to become one of Britain’s most recognisable Christmas events, with pictures of fearless swimmers splashed across many Boxing Day papers.

Paul Hackett / Reuters
A swimmer takes to the sea for a Christmas Day dip on Brighton Beach in 2010
Paul Hackett / Reuters
Normally a few dozen swimmers take part with thousands of spectators attending 

But Brighton & Hove City Council has said risks posed by freezing temperatures means much of the pebbled beach must now be taped off.

Milder weather is thought to be behind the council’s position - as warmer temperatures attract greater numbers of spectators and amateur swimmers.

Health campaigner John Knapp told Brighton’s Argus newspaper he was infuriated by the council’s meddling. 

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The dash into the sea is a notable Christmas tradition but this year is under threat
paul mansfield photography via Getty Images
Birds eye view of the traditional Christmas Day swim at Brighton Beach

The 81-year-old said: “I would say that’s a stupid idea, I would say that is counter-productive to health.

“More than 300 years ago a doctor said sea swimming was beneficial to health and it’s the reason the Prince Regent came here.

“I don’t think anybody will take any notice, you cannot fence off the beach, you cannot stop people going in.

“This is the nanny state, they should have better things to do.”

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Spectators gather on the beach to watch the few dozen foolhardy swimmers on Christmas Day
Chris Ison/PA Archive
A little persuasion is often required before members of the public head into the freezing sea

However, seafront operations manager Chris Ingall believes extra precautions will prevent incidents which have blighted the event in the past.

In 2014, the swim was halted after a participant got into difficulty.

And last year similar measures were introduced to manage swelling crowds.

Ingall said: “The continuing mild weather has meant that, as with last year, the seafront has been much busier than in previous winters.

“It’s been great to see so many people enjoying a stroll on the promenade and its good news for seafront businesses, but we would ask people to stay on the path or high up on the beach, especially when the sea conditions are rough.

“Sea swimming takes skill, stamina and knowledge of the physical dangers and should only be for the very experienced, using suitable wetsuits, in very calm conditions and with a friend.

“Even on a calm day sea currents, undertow or a sudden change in weather can create life threatening hazards without warning. Even experienced swimmers can get caught out.”