This is a guest post by Kim Matthews, local author of “Down Channel – The Smacks and Mariners of The Shoreham Oyster Fishery”.

The public hards of Shoreham are ancient rights of way giving the public statutory access to and from the river and harbour. They are Restricted Byways. They have the same legal status as a bridleway on farmland and cannot be used by motor vehicles, only pedestrians, horses and motorised disabled appliances. Councils and land owners like Sussex Yacht Club can try to get a restricted byway ‘stopped up’ and prevent the public using them. They apply to the Secretary of State for the Environment to close the right of way permanently.

Stows Gap (Restricted Byway 3157) runs across the centre of the yacht club land from the A259 southwards onto the main club slipway. Adur District Council, as part of the plan to build a flood defence wall and new cycleway/footpath, have applied to block up Stows Gap and remove the right of way permanently.

Objectors to the permanent closure of Stows Gap to the public do so on the basis of:

  • The new main entrance to the yacht club, including its flood gate, should be located at the point where Stows Gap joins the road. This will keep the right of way open and not hold up the flood wall construction at all. The stopping up order for the hard is therefore totally unnecessary on flood defence grounds.
  • The Joint Area Action Plan (JAAP) states that during any development of the Western Harbour Arm all public access to and from the water MUST be maintained. Therefore, closure of Stows Gap is unacceptable on planning grounds.
  • Stows Gap provides good disabled access to and from the water, especially once the new footpath alongside the A259 is built. The nearby Dolphin Hard ramp next to the footbridge is too steep for wheelchairs and is not DDA compliant. Stopping up Stows Gap therefore discriminates against disabled people and their enjoyment of the river.
  • If you close one hard it sends out the message that others can be taken over and closed to the public.

Many of these ancient rights of way are threatened by new developments, private car parking, storage, restaurants, new sea defences, local authority apathy etc. Some of these hards go back to Norman times and are as much a part of the townscape of Shoreham as St. Mary de Haura church.

Objections to the Stopping Up Order are likely to come in from commercial fishers, paddle boarders, canoeists, inland waterway enthusiasts, dinghy sailors, local historians etc. The closing date for objections being sent to Adur District Legal Department is Friday 22 December 2023. Email: legal.mail@adur-worthing.gov.uk.

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Last modified: December 15, 2023