First Posted: 3/22/2012 11:30:16 AM | Last Updated: 3/22/2012 12:20:54 PM
The result of the Judicial Review into East Sussex County Council’s decision to register the sandy West Beach as a village green has been announced this morning – and it is disappointing news for Newhaven’s residents.
Mr Justice Ouseley, the judge in the case, has concluded that the beach cannot be registered as a village green. He has reached this decision despite accepting that
· Newhaven Town Council provided significant evidence that the beach had been used by local people for more than 20 years as of right for lawful sports and pastimes.
· The Inspector at the Public Inquiry dealt with an unusual situation carefully, made the necessary factual findings, grappled with the issues, and produced a clear and reasoned recommendation which dealt with the issues raised.
· A village green does not have to be grassy, or in the middle of a village and that it does not matter that the land is covered by the tide for part of the day.
The reason that the beach cannot be registered, in Mr Ouseley’s opinion, is that registration is not compatible with the statutory purpose (ie running a port) for which the land is held by the Port Authority because there is a conflict of statutory regimes. This was a last minute legal argument raised by the legal team working for the Port Authority in writing after the Judicial Review closed.
Councillor Carla Butler said:
“This is a devastating blow to the morale of people in Newhaven, who have used the beach in exactly the same way as a village green is used for generations. At last week’s Big Planning consultation event held by the Town Council to find out what people most wanted to see in Newhaven, the one thing that local people voted for more than anything else was to see the beach re-opened. NPP has won this stage of the battle on a legal technicality, but even the judge says that he would have preferred to hold that the beach was registrable. In all the years that the public have used the beach there has been no conflict between the operation of the port and the use of the beach – indeed photographic evidence was submitted by the town council in support of its application showing local families playing on the sand whilst a jack-up barge was moored there in the past.”
The Mayor of Newhaven, Councillor Steve Saunders added “The recently produced Port Masterplan does not show the West Beach being used for any purposes at all. The Town Council strongly supports the current efforts being made by the Port Authority to regenerate the port and their bid for business from the proposed Rampion wind farm. However, we continue to see no reason why the use of the beach by the public should jeopardise this. I call upon NPP to do the right thing by the people of Newhaven. Re-opening the beach would immediately win the Port Authority huge public support. The Town Council continues to welcome discussions on the best way forward to restore public recreational use of the beach whilst safeguarding the operations of the port.”
The Town Council is currently taking legal advice.
Attached – photograph from the 1990s showing people on the beach whilst a jack up barge was moored there.