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The landmark case for the registration of land as a village green, at West Beach, Newhaven, East Sussex, is set to be heard in the Supreme Court on Monday and Tuesday next week (3-4 November). We are backing our member, Newhaven Town Council, the applicant for the village green.
The council applied to register the much-loved beach as a green in 2008 and, following a public inquiry in 2010, East Sussex County Council (the registration authority) agreed to the registration. However, the landowner, Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd (NPP), applied to the High Court for judicial review, which it won. The town council then appealed to the Court of Appeal which reversed the High Court judgment. Now NPP is appealing to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, and the town council and county council will be represented in opposition.
Land can be registered as a village green if local people have used it for informal recreation for 20 years, without challenge or permission. Once registered, the land is protected from development and encroachment and local people have rights of recreation there.
The main issue at Newhaven is whether NPP’s statutory functions to maintain and operate the port are incompatible with people’s informal use of the land and thus with the registration of the land as a village green, and whether there could be a conflict with NPP’s byelaw-making powers.
The Appeal Court concluded that, although the registration of West Beach as a village green may have consequences on the future discharge of the landowner’s statutory functions, those consequences did not provide a proper ground for holding that the land was not registrable. The town council hopes that the Supreme Court will uphold this ruling.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘This is a crucially important case, not only for the future of the immensely popular and much-loved Newhaven Beach, but for countless green spaces which are owned or managed by statutory authorities for purposes which may appear to conflict with recreational use.
‘We congratulate Newhaven Town Council on its determination and tenacity in pursuing the registration of West Beach as a green and fervently hope that it wins the case in the Supreme Court. Long may local people and visitors enjoy their beloved beach,’ Kate concludes.