Kings Chambers’ Sauvain QC and Hunter act for county council in West Beach case

Stephen Sauvain QC and John Hunter from Kings Chambers have acted for East Sussex County Council in R (oao Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd) v East Sussex County Council and Newhaven Town Council. The Supreme Court has granted permission to appeal in the case, which concerns the registration of an area of beach known as West Beach in Newhaven, East Sussex.

In 2008, an application was made to register the land as a green under section 15(4) of the Commons Act 2006. Following a public inquiry, the County Council, as registration authority, resolved to grant the application.

The port authority applied for judicial review of that decision on a number of grounds. The High Court dismissed all of the original grounds but allowed the claim on the basis that the port had no power to grant rights that were incompatible with its statutory functions.

The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment, holding that the capacity of a landowner to grant rights over land claimed as a green was irrelevant to its registration. The Court of Appeal also dismissed the port’s cross appeal on all of its original grounds.

The Supreme Court has now granted permission to appeal on three issues: whether incompatibility with statutory functions is a bar to registration; whether the use of a tidal beach is presumed to be pursuant to a revocable licence; and whether the existence of bylaws prevents use being as of right.

The first and third issues are of wide importance, given the extent of land held pursuant to statutory functions and subject to bylaws.