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February 25 2013.

Newhaven Town Council press release:

The legal battle to get Newhaven's sandy West Beach re-opened to the public continues this week. The Appeal against the decision made by the judge at the Judicial Review held in November 2011, not to allow the West Beach to be registered as a Village Green will be heard from 10.00am tomorrow, Tuesday the 26th of February at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. It is expected that the case will take about four days.

The decision will not be announced immediately, as the judges in the case will have to go away and consider their verdict, which will be delivered later.

East Sussex County Council is leading the Appeal in defence of its decision to register the Beach, which it made following a public inquiry in 2010, at which all the evidence was carefully considered by an Inspector on the Councils behalf. Newhaven Town Council will be represented in court as the Second Appellan,(the Town Council made the original application to register the beach as a Village Green). The respondent in the case is Newhaven Port and Properties, which owns the Beach and closed it in 2006, citing health and safety reasons.

At the Judicial Review, the judge, Mr Justice Ouseley, concluded that the beach could not be registered as a Village Green. He made 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 could not be registered, in Mr Ouseley's opinion, was that registration would not be compatible with the statutory purpose, (i.e. 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 in writing by the legal team working for the Port Authority after the Judicial Review closed.

The Appeal will look closely at this point, which is disputed by both East Sussex County Council and Newhaven Town Council. Inevitably, it will also reconsider all the issues raised at both the Public Inquiry and the Judicial Review.


Q: Doesn't the Queen own all beaches?

A: The Crown does own much of the foreshore (the area between the high tide and low tide levels) around the coast - but it does not own the sandy beach within the harbour arm at Newhaven - this belongs to the Port Authority, Newhaven Port and Properties.

Q: Doesn't a Village Green have to be green?

A: No - the definition of a village green is that it has to be land which has been used by the people of a specific locality (Newhaven in this case) as of right for lawful sports and pastimes for at least 20 years. It doesn't have to be grassy - there are plenty of other registered village greens that do not look like stereotypical village greens.

Q: How can you have a village green that is under water for part of every day?

A: This is one of the issues that has been thoroughly debated both at the Public Inquiry and at the Judicial Review - and will, no doubt, be discussed again during the Appeal. However, there are other watery village greens - there is a lake in Wales for instance; Kingston Beach at Shoreham Harbour is a village green that is partially covered at high tide; and the Trap Grounds in Oxfordshire are a village green that consists of marshland, some of which is permanently under water. Many traditional village greens include a duck pond.