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Red tape pulls plug on Christmas swim

PUBLISHED: 11:49 02 December 2008 | UPDATED: 12:18 07 May 2010

The Southwold Christmas Day swim has been called off after the organisers were left facing too many rules and regulations.

The Southwold Christmas Day swim has been called off after the organisers were left facing too many rules and regulations.

A festive Southwold tradition has been cancelled just weeks before Christmas because of increasingly stringent health and safety regulations.

A festive Southwold tradition has been cancelled just weeks before Christmas because of increasingly stringent health and safety regulations.

The town's Christmas Day swim, which would have taken place for the fifth time this year, has been called off after the organisers were left facing too many rules and regulations.

The event has grown in popularity since the first swim, which was dreamed up just a week before Christmas 2003 by a group of local businessmen who were meeting at the Crown Hotel in the town and saw 29 locals take a festive dip in the chilly North Sea.

Last year, 130 people took part in the swim and were watched by a further 750, raising more than £8,000 for local charities. Since 2003, more than £17,000 has been raised for Beach Radio's Help An East Coast Child appeal.

As it started attracting more and more people to the town from further afield, the organisers - Southwold mayor Teresa Baggot and husband Derek and locals Dudley and Marion Clarke - found it increasingly difficult to find the time to devote to the swim and earlier this summer they announced that they would be stepping down.

In September, hopes for the future of the popular Christmas morning activity were raised when charity Marie Curie Cancer Care, which organises other events including swims, runs and music concerts across the country, announced it was looking into taking over the event.

But now this year's swim has been cancelled less than a month before it was due to go ahead. Judith Hall, the charity's community fundraising manager for Norfolk and Suffolk, said: “Marie Curie Cancer Care will not be organising a swim in Southwold on Christmas Day this year because of health and safety issues. However we are looking into the possibility of organising another event in the town later next year.”

Previous organiser Mr Clarke said: “It's a shame, but it has just got too much. There are so many barriers - people wanting to take part would have to fill in three forms and might even be told they can't go in the water if their fancy dress outfit was too big.

“Lots of people would be needed to help but nobody will take this on - for example the lifeguards will all be in Lowestoft for the swim taking place there.

“With only three weeks to go, it would have taken a lot of effort to arrange things at this late point. I'm sure a lot of the people who were hoping to take part will go in the sea on Christmas morning anyway.”

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