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Picnic held by protesters on closed sands of Newhaven West Beach
Hundreds of demonstrators held a protest picnic on a fenced-off beach at the weekend in a show of strength aimed at its French owners.
Campaigners dressed as pixies and pirates as they climbed barriers and gathered on Newhaven’s West Beach on Saturday.
The event was the latest in a string of protest action against the fencing-off of the sandy stretch by its French owners.
Protesters told The Argus it was time bosses across the English Channel “stopped their nonsense” and listened to public opinion.
The British-based but French-owned Newhaven Port and Properties (NPP) fenced off the beach in 2008, citing safety fears.
Fed-up locals have long been campaigning for it to be registered a village green, which would legally allow them access.
With the decision still in the balance, residents broke into the beach earlier thismonthto take advantage of the summer heatwave.
Between 300 and 400 locals took to the beach for the protest picnic.
With banners reading ‘Knickers to NPP’, many tied underwear to the metal gates in defiance.
Others dressed up as pixies and pirates and came with home-made signs such as ‘British beach – Not French. NPP Retournez Notre Plage!!! Give Our British Beach Back’.
Campaigner Ruth Rose said: “It’s ridiculous this company has taken it so far through the courts.
“It is about time they stopped this nonsense and listened to us.
“Itwas a great turnout at theweekend and it really shows the strength of feeling. This is our beach and we want it back.”
Among those joining the protest was Newhaven mayor Julie Carr and town councillors Carla Butler, Rod Main and deputy town clerk Jacky Cole.
The campaign has largely been organised on social media websites.
Protester Jill Browning took to Facebook following the event. She said: “I still can’t believe we have been on the sandy beach with my two grandsons aged seven and nine.
“They were so excited. What a turnout and a brilliant atmosphere.Well done to allwho organised this and work so hard to get the beach back.”
Earlier this year the Court of Appeal ruled the beach could be registered as a village green.
However access is still restricted while NPP decides whether to appeal the decision.
NPP bosses have been staying tight-lipped on their next move. In a statement earlier this month, they said: “Please note that despite local rumours and antics to the contrary, the sandy beach remains closed to the public.
"While there is still a legal case ongoing with appeals to the Supreme Court, the beach will remain closed.
“This is because there are still serious health and safety issues and the access is very dangerous.
“The fence and signage clearly indicate that there is no access and therefore the public should not put themselves at risk of injury.”
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