Southend residents and tourism-related businesses have expressed concerns after it emerged that Southend Council has used an existing byelaw to FORCE ‘excessively large’ people to cover up and wear respectable levels of clothing while using both the main High Street and the popular seafront area between The Kursaal and The Pier. According to emails that have been seen by Southend News Network, council tourism bosses feel that the warm weather encourages people to ‘bare rather a lot of skin when perhaps they should cover up,’ and one unnamed councillor even feels that families are staying away from the resort altogether as they are afraid of being confronted by a ‘cheese wire’ or similar.
We spoke to a source within local government to find out why this decision has been taken. He said: ‘We examined an existing byelaw that prevents dogs from using local beaches between 1st May and 30th September, and it effectively allows us to introduce other restrictions for the same period of time to keep Southend’s beaches and main tourist areas as family-friendly as possible. Therefore, from the beginning of May until the end of September this year, we are going to run a trial where local enforcement officers will be able to issue a £60 on-the-spot fine to anyone who is showing an unacceptable amount of bare flesh. We are going to ask these officers to use their judgement in these situations, but it goes without saying that larger people really shouldn’t be dressing in a way that could be considered as pornographic in nature. However, we are also aware that equality rules need to be applied in these circumstances, and therefore we will be taking the same approach with both men and women.’
He continued: ‘A string bikini that has effectively disappeared is something that we are trying to stamp out, but at the same time a shirtless tattooed gentleman with a huge beer gut and a Staffordshire Terrier called ‘Rocky’ or similar is also an image that we are trying to remove from Southend On Sea – once he arrives at a local drinking pit for ‘Tone Deaf Karaoke Night’ he is more than welcome to take his shirt off again. A number of members of the public have said that something called a ‘gunt’ needs to be kept under clothing for reasons of decency, and once we find out what a ‘gunt’ is we will also be monitoring this trend carefully.’
Joanna Pavey-Crackton is a Southend-based psychotherapist who deals with weight-loss and body image issues, and she has branded the law change as ‘incredibly irresponsible and damaging.’ She said: ‘Once again, overweight people are being discriminated against, and as far as I am concerned nothing says ‘Southend’ like 14-degree weather and a 73-year-old chain smoker called Beryl having her buttocks scraping along the floor. It sends an incredibly harmful message to any children who visit our town, and parents need to tell them that all body types are beautiful in their own way – or at least they can tell them once they have finished their 11th pint and sent someone to find their kids in the amusement arcade next door.’