Page last updated at 21:03 GMT, Wednesday, 28 April 2010 22:03 UK

Dispute over beach closure threatens Port of Newhaven

Port of Newhaven
Ferries operate between Newhaven and the French port of Dieppe

The French owners of a ferry port in East Sussex have threatened to close it because of a row with the town council over public access to a sandy beach.

West Beach, in Newhaven, was closed more than two years ago by Newhaven Port and Properties, which also runs the port, because of an unsafe wall.

Newhaven Town Council threatened legal action, but the owners have threatened to leave the town if it is not dropped.

Council leader Judith Ost said: "We have a right to that beach."

"We've had access to that beach for 100 years or more without any difficulty. People just used the beach.

"And we have sat down with them and we have tried to say what is it that we can reasonably do."

Our main concern is to improve the ferry business
Jean-Pierre Lucas, Newhaven Port and Properties

The town council has applied to East Sussex County Council to reclassify the beach as a village green.

The move would mean the owners would only be able to close the area in an emergency.

Newhaven Port and Properties said it had been trying to find a solution to the problem with the town council to enable the public to be admitted to the area.

It said it had been surprised to hear a suggestion that a public inquiry on the village green application was scheduled for July.

It said: "Such action does not seem to demonstrate any intention to work in co-operation and effectively for the future of the Port of Newhaven.

"At this stage, given the continuous and constant distrust of the local community in the port and its leaders, we consider that we should seek other alternatives for maintaining an active ferry from Dieppe."

Spokesman Jean-Pierre Lucas added: "Our options are either to develop the port with the beach in use or, a better solution for us, would be to move the ferry terminal to another port.

"Our main concern is to improve the ferry business."


The threat to close the port followed a row about access to the beach

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