FRENCH officials have dashed hopes that scenes like this could return to a much-loved sandy beach.

The once-popular West Beach in Newhaven has been frequented by visitors in the past but was closed off by owners of the port because of safety concerns and a refusal to accept liability for any accidents that might occur there.

The French directors of Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd (NPP) were in negotiations with the town's council, whose long-term aim is to re-open the beach.

After putting together a video in French last summer, explaining the feelings of locals over the beach closure, Newhaven Town Council has remained in close contact with officials in Rouen.

The town's mayor, Steve Saunders, has had face to face meetings with the Chairman of NPP’s Board of Directors, M Alain Bazille both in Rouen and the UK.

During the latest of several face-to-face meetings, this time in Seaford, a frank discussion took place over the possibility of re-opening the beach.

But it was made clear at the meeting that NPP’s directors felt it was impossible to re-open the beach.

Cllr Saunders said: "I am disappointed at NPP's decision not to reopen the beach at this time and not being able to give the good news that everyone was hoping for.

"The people of the town are naturally angry and frustrated at its continued closure and I completely sympathise and share in these understandable views.

"I have tried hard with officers and colleagues at the council to reach a compromise solution with the port authority, which would see this well-loved facility available for everyone to enjoy again."

The main reasons given for keeping the beach closed were that it would not be possible to continue to dredge the shipping channel inside the port if the beach was open because dredging would contaminate the bathing water and that NPP does not have the money to carry out repairs needed to the sea wall to make the beach safe.

Speaking to The Argus in Dieppe in May, NPP director Jean-Pierre Lucas said: “We have always said that if the town of Newhaven accepted all the responsibility for the beach, then discussions would be possible.”

However, NPP has now said that although it is possible to take out public liability insurance to protect against compensation claims by people in the event of an accident, NPP believes it is not possible to protect its personnel against possible prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter Act if something were to go wrong.

The council has offered to help with some of the repair costs and still wants to negotiate a way forward.

Cllr Saunders added: “The relationship that the council has with NPP outside this one issue remains good and we continue to support each other in areas of much-needed regeneration in the town.”