George Laurence QC and Edwin Simpson in the Supreme Court in the Newhaven Beach case

3rd November 2014

George Laurence QC and Edwin Simpson appear in the Supreme Court on 3rd and 4th November for the Town Council in the Newhaven Beach case.

Within the harbour walls of the port of Newhaven (which many people will know from the ferry to Dieppe) there is an area of sandy beach which local residents have used for recreation since at least the end of the First World War.  In 2006, however, Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd (NPP), the statutory port authority, erected fences preventing access to the beach, because of concerns about the safety of the harbour wall and the possible need to develop the port in ways which might be inconsistent with use of the beach for recreation.

Newhaven Town Council applied to East Sussex County Council (the relevant authority for the purpose) to register the foreshore (i.e. the area of land between the mean low and high tide lines) as a village green, on the basis that it had been used sufficiently by local people for a period of at least 20 years without force, secrecy or permission.  A public inquiry was held in Newhaven, at which Edwin Simpson appeared on behalf of the Town Council, and the Inspector ruled in favour of registration.

NPP sought judicial review of the Inspector’s decision, and were successful before Ouseley J.  But the Court of Appeal overturned that decision, once more ruling in favour of registration.  NPP now appeal to the Supreme Court where the matter will finally be determined.  The hearing will last for 2 days (3rd and 4th November), and George Laurence QC and Edwin Simpson appear for the Town Council.  

The key issues are:

  • whether access to the foreshore is always by implied permission of the landowner (frequently, but not in this case, the Crown), which would prevent users acquiring rights by prescription
  • whether the port bye-laws in this case operate to confer a permission, which again would prevent the prescriptive acquisition of rights 
  • whether the fact that the land is held for specific statutory purposes (i.e. to be operated as a port) should prevent its registration as a village green.

Associated Members

George Laurence QC

Edwin Simpson

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