Photographers have demanded exemptions from new bye-laws that require written consent for commercial photography in Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square Garden.
Though the wording does not differ from previous bye-laws, commercial photographers fear that the rules will restrict their ability to work in a public place.
It is unclear whether amateur photographers will be questioned by wardens if they are seen using professional-looking equipment in Trafalgar Square, a world-renowned tourist hotspot.
The rules, which the Greater London Authority (GLA) approved last month, state that written permission is needed to ?take photographs or film or make any other recordings of visual images for the purpose of or in connection with a business, trade, profession or employment or any activity carried on by a person or body of persons, whether corporate or incorporate?.
?Press photographers cannot possibly be expected to comply with this,? said John Toner, freelance organiser at the National Union of Journalists, who has written to the Government and London Mayor Boris Johnson to protest.
Toner told Amateur Photographer (AP): ?Ideally, I want them to incorporate press exemptions into the bye-laws.?
Meanwhile, a photographer using the Flickr name JayKay72 has sought clarification from the GLA.
He said he received a reply which stated that the bye-laws place no restriction on ?private or amateur photography? for ?own use and enjoyment?.
The photographer said that the GLA?s reply added: ?In the case of amateur photographers, if the person has professional-looking equipment and appears to be undertaking commercial photography, then the Heritage Wardens will enquire about their purpose and, if it is not commercial, they will be able to continue their activity?.
Architectural photographer Grant Smith, a fervent photo rights campaigner, also expressed concern at the possible impact on amateurs and tourists who, he fears, may be ?put off taking photographs in the Square?.
Last week a group of friends making a ?birthday film? in Trafalgar Square ? apparently for their own use – were ordered to stop filming and leave the Square, according to citizen journalism website Demotix.
The Mayor?s office had yet to comment on this incident at the time of writing.
However, a GLA spokesman told AP: ?To be clear, there are no restrictions on amateur photographers taking pictures in Trafalgar Square. Restrictions apply to commercial photography and information about commercial photography (for example, photoshoots) is on the GLA website.?
The spokesman added: ?Thousands of amateur photographers take pictures in Trafalgar Square every year and there is no charge.?
Michael Pritchard, director general of the Royal Photographic Society was alerted to the rules by a concerned member.
Pritchard strongly opposes the bye-laws, though he concedes that the wording is the same as those that came into effect in 2000.
?In theory the bye-laws could be applied to press photographers who would not be in a position to apply for permission in advance,? he told us.
?In practice, Trafalgar Square is public space and, provided photographers do not obstruct other users, then it should really be treated no differently to other public spaces.?
The GLA, which is poised to submit the bye-laws to the UK government, had yet to confirm whether it plans to incorporate exemptions for press photographers into the rules, as demanded by the NUJ.
The GLA has urged that any objections to the new bye-laws be submitted to Carl Schnackenberg, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH.
Objections can also be emailed to Carl.Schnackenberg@Culture.gsi.gov.uk
Schnackenberg had yet to respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.