SEVERAL hundred protesters stormed a fenced-off beach in defiance of its French owners.

Campaigners at Newhaven Beach used a ladder to help families, residents and day-trippers onto the sand to hold a “very British” protest picnic.

The sandy stretch has been closed for six years by UK-based French-run Newhaven Ports and Properties over claimed safety issues.

Protesters tied socks to the fence to “sock it to the French” following the last protest when they tied underwear under the slogan “pants to them”.

Union Jacks were laid out with “Give us our surf beach back” written in the sand.

Norman Baker, MP for Lewes, said: “It's a very British protest – very well behaved and very well humoured.

“There is still a sense of frustration among residents because they want to see the beach opened.

“The ideal situation is that the beach is reopened so that people can use it again.

“And the frustrating thing of course is the money being used for the court case could have just been used to fix the steps.

"It's such a waste. It's a lovely little beach and you can tell its popularity by how many people have turned up today - and they just want their beach back."

A final court decision on access to the beach is expected in November.

Sue Stanley, from Seaford, said: "It's the only sandy beach for miles and miles, and when we bring our grandchildren to the beach - they want sand.

“They want to be able to make castles and draw in the sand. It's just so sad. Not having this at our disposal has been really hard.”

Lewes district councillor Carla Bulter said: “Not only is it frustrating for the residents, but it's also hitting Newhaven's economy massively.

“It used to be a thriving town in the summer, but this has hit us hard.

“The pub down the road has closed and it just needs to be sorted - these people deserve their beach.”

Protest organiser Heather Mclean said: “It’s lovely to see the support.

“We just want the beach back. If we were told ‘let’s draw a line under this and open it back up’, then we would all be happy campers.”