The inquiry into whether to grant a right of way at Newhaven’s West Beach has been adjourned to allow lawyers more time to draw up their closing arguments.
The public inquiry started at Shakespeare Hall on Tuesday, June 2 after Newhaven Town Council made an application for a right of way for specific areas of West Beach.
It was discovered the original Definitive Map, an official record of rights of way, from 1956 showed a right of way extending the full width of the promenade, but the current Definitive Map only shows a thin line. The town council accordingly applied for amendments to be made to the current Definitive Map reinstating the right of way to the full width of the promenade and extending it down the steps to the sand.
Matthew Harper, senior Rights of Way officer, appeared as a witness for East Sussex County Council explaining why it had agreed to make the order amending the Definitive Map as requested by the town council.
The reasons included the evidence of the original Definitive Map and the ample evidence of use submitted by the town council.
Over the course of the three-day inquiry, the council called a number of witnesses who gave evidence about their use of the promenade and steps to access the sandy and shingle beaches, the breakwater and the amusements.
A lawyer representing Newhaven Port and Properties (NPP) cross-examined Mr Harper, making the point that parked cars and cranes often obstructed use of the promenade. Mr Harper argued these obstructions were only temporary and did not materially affect the public’s ability to access the promenade.
One of NPP’s witness, the Port manager, spoke on Thursday about the possible need to use the promenade for the berthing of jack up barges and other vessels relating to the wind farm, although there was no specific mention of any development proposals for the promenade or the West Beach in the Port Masterplan.
NPP did not dispute that the full width of the promenade has been used by thousands of people over the years but also made reference to harbour bye-laws that can be argued to give people permission to use the promenade.
There was much dispute about when this specific bye-law had been introduced and amended over time.
Once all the evidence had been heard, the lawyers asked for more time to reflect and consider their closing statements in the light of the evidence heard. Accordingly, the Inquiry was adjourned. It will reconvene on Monday, July 6 at 12 noon at Meeching Hall.