Campaigners in Newhaven were in shock this week as the prospect of reopening the West Beach in Newhaven was dealt a blow, just as the fight to save Tide Mills beach gathered momentum.
Newhaven Port and Properties (NPP) was successful in its appeal to the Supreme Court to prevent Newhaven Town Council from registering the West Beach as a village green.
At the same time more than 1,600 people have signed a petition to safeguard a corner of the beach at Tide Mills in the town.
The deadline has been extended by four days to object to the planning application land owner Newhaven Port and Properties has submitted to Lewes District Council, which will hive off part of the Tide Mills beach.
Objectors now have until Tuesday, March 3, to make their views known.
To sign the petition and object to the planning application visit the petition website http://saveourwave.org/
The town council wanted to register the West Beach as a village green in a bid to secure access to this popular spot for generations to come and has been fighting a legal battle with NPP for village green status for the beach through the courts.
The West Beach has been closed to the public since 2006 by NPP on health and safety grounds.
Speaking to the Sussex Express following the announcement that NPP had won its appeal, Newhaven councillor Carla Butler said: “Looking back we couldn’t have done any more than we did.
“I thank the public for their support and officers for their hard work behind the scenes. Soon after the decision was announced I met the management of NPP with Judith Ost, Mayor of Newhaven, and Norman Baker MP, who arranged the meeting.
“Discussions to reopen the beach for the public will continue.
“This issue won’t go away and it’s about time NPP acknowledged the strength of feeling and resentment the public hold and work with councils to secure the reopening despite today’s decision.”
And Cllr Rod Main added: “Next stage is to talk to NPP. They should be wanting to talk to us as I’m fairly sure the local reaction will not be good.
“I cannot accurately predict what the public might choose to do now, given that the town council has exhausted the legal avenues.
“In fact, if they want to calm the inevitable anger and negative feelings towards themselves and their future developments, they need to find a way of opening the beach ASAP.”
NPP’s planning application involves refurbishing the existing multi-purpose berth at East Quay, building a new multi-purpose berth and slipway at the southern end of the East Quay and levelling the backshore area to the east of the new multi-purpose berth to create a new land development area and establish a 3.5 hectare nature reserve bordering the Tide Mills historic village area.
It also wants to dredge the approach channel and the berthing pocket alongside East Quay. NPP has asked for permission to demolish part of the East Pier.
NPP said all the land up to the proposed conservation area had been allocated for port expansion and upgrading subject to five conditions, all of which had been met.
It explained the proposed nature reserve would act as a buffer between Tide Mills and the port activity.
NPP said it was desperately short of quayside for cargo ships and marine traffic. The new quayside will help it attract more business.
It explained this scheme would refurbish an existing derelict area of the port. To read more about NPP’s plans visit www.lewes.gov.uk and search for LW/15/0034 in the planning applications.
The proposal for Tide Mills and the West Beach controversy has already come in for criticism from residents in the town, including Tide Mills supporter Geoff King, of Marine Drive, Seaford, who said: “So this really does prove NPP and the French port owners’ commitment to Newhaven and to the local people and visitors to the town.
“The West Beach could have been a real tourist attraction and as such could have given Newhaven the regeneration boost it so badly needs.
“Instead of that, NPP and the French port owners have fought to the bitter end to bar any access to the West Beach.
“And now NPP and the French port owners will doubtless still expect local people’s co-operation in their plans for the harbour expansion with their ‘smoke and mirrors’ promises of local prosperity and new jobs.
“The harbour expansion plans will see the loss and destruction of the only other sandy beach which is in the corner of Tide Mills by the East Arm.
“Is it not time to say enough is enough?”