The report by the inspector at the public inquiry into Newhaven Town Council’s right of way application for West Beach has been received today (Monday, September 7).
The result is a partial victory for the town council, as the inspector agreed the full width of the promenade was a right of way.
But he did not accept the steps down to the sandy beach should also be a right of way, meaning residents cannot use them to gain access to the sand.
Michael Lowe, the inspector, found the promenade is similar in nature to a private road where the presumption is that the full width of the way has been dedicated and there is no indication the public have been restricted to any particular part of the promenade.
Mr Lowe also concluded that parking is permitted on the northern and southern edges of the promenade.
On the issue of the steps, however, Mr Lowe decided use of the steps was purely ancillary to the use of the beach for recreational purposes, which the Supreme Court in the village green case decided was by permission of the landowner as a result of the bye-laws.
For the public to be using either the beach or the steps ‘as of right’ they would have to have been doing so without permission.
As the decision is to amend the Order proposed by East Sussex County Council (by deleting the steps) the modified Order will have to be advertised and there will then be an opportunity for comments to be made, he said.
The town council will be considering the report carefully with the advice of its legal team before deciding what comments to make.
Mayor of Newhaven, Steve Saunders, said: “Although this is a partial victory, the decision of the inspector is obviously very disappointing for both the town council and the people of Newhaven because it does not establish public access to the sand.
“As well as considering the town council’s reaction to the decision, we are continuing to work behind the scenes and still very much hope to meet face-to-face with the French directors of NPP.”
In February people living near the 15-acre beach learned they would not be allowed to use it after five judges at the Supreme Court ruled in favour of its French owners.
Five judges unanimously agreed that West Beach in Newhaven would not be able to become a village green, which locals campaigned for.
They ruled the stretch of sand would remained fenced off under the instruction of its owners.
The full report from the inspector can be found on the town council’s website at Newhaven Town Council
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