Newhaven loses beach access battle

Ruth Doherty
Newhaven loses beach access battle
Newhaven loses beach access battle

Residents in Newhaven, Sussex, have lost a seven-year court battle for the right to use the town's picturesque sandy beach.

Landowners claimed that the West Beach is part of the port and dangerous for the public to use.

And Supreme Court judges have now upheld the claim, meaning the beach will not be open for public use.

According to the BBC, the town has spent almost £250,000 in legal fees attempting to have the land declared a village green.

Residents used the beach in the town for generations until it was closed by French port owners Newhaven Port and Properties (NPP) in 2006.

Five judges decided that the beach could not be registered as a village green, and therefore could not be enjoyed by the locals.

The grounds given for the judgement are that the existence of the port byelaws had the effect of conferring permission on the public to use the beach and that if village green status was granted this would create an incompatibility between the statutory power of the port authority to operate the port and the statutory rights of the users of the village green.

In a statement on the Newhaven Town Council's website, The Town Mayor of Newhaven, Councillor Judith Ost said: "This is very disappointing news for the residents of Newhaven, who we know have been hoping and praying that our application to safeguard the beach for their use would succeed.

"The Town Council has done everything in its power to try and get the beach re-opened. When we asked local people in 2008 whether we should apply for village green status we received an overwhelming response with more than 1,000 people filling in forms pledging their support for the idea and saying how much they wanted the beach open. We have followed the wishes of local people and taken this to the highest court in the land.

"As well as pursuing the case through the courts, we have repeatedly tried to reach agreement with NPP outside the court. We have held private talks with them throughout the process asking them to allow the public to use the beach and discussing practical solutions to health and safety concerns. The Supreme Court has today found that the beach has been used by local people for generations by permission of the port authority – and we see no reason why local people cannot continue to do so.

"We still hope to persuade the port authority to grant permission again and call upon them to re-open talks with us immediately. NPP has the power to turn disappointment into joy by letting people back on to the beach this summer."

Speaking to the Daily Mail, one local, Carol Harvard, said the Supreme Court's decision was "crazy".

She said: "This town has played here for generations. We are a small community and this is the gem in our crown, our uniqueness.

"Brighton has its beach front and we have the beach and breakwater.

"I am not against the French - my husband is French. This is about access to a fantastic place where people have been for generations."

She added: "We have a tiny town council but they have fought very hard. It is just a crazy decision."

The battle has been a long and arduous one. In 2007, the council lodged an application with East Sussex County Council in response to NPP closing the beach because of safety concerns about the harbour walls and steps crumbling.

In 2010 the application was accepted and the Court of Appeal ruled that the beach could be granted village green status.

But NPP appealed against that decision, and the Supreme Court has upheld its appeal.

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