Castle Cove Campaigners Uncover Beach Bombshell
8:26am 16th January 2015
(Updated 7:19pm 16th January 2015)
One of Weymouth's most popular beaches was closed on a whim according to campaigners fighting to reopen Castle Cove Beach.
The Friends of Castle Cove Beach have discovered through the Freedom of Information Act that three County Council officers made the decision to close the beach after visiting the site. They made only a visual assessment of the area and didn't ask for any other specialists to investigate.
Chair of the group Steve Elsworth says the new findings will spur on his members.
He told Wessex FM: "It's an outrageous way for a council to behave! All of the people who are campaigning to reopen the footpath to the beach will be invigorated by this because this behaviour is shoddy."
"This is an astonishing way to deal with a much-loved community asset. In the past, when footpaths were closed, the process involved scientific reports, formal meetings, agendas and minuted decisions.
"In the case of Castle Cove in 2013, it looks as if three officers went for a stroll and decided to close the beach. They didn't even take minutes of their decision. There was no risk assessment, no record of alternatives, no consideration of the impact of the decision, and, although the closure order of March 2013 said the footpath was closed "for Health and Safety reasons", no Health and Safety assessment was carried out.
"The closure notice reported that the path was closed "due to damage to the footpath... which has blocked the footpath and rendered the footpath unstable". The footpath has never been "blocked" and has always been passable.
"This is an incredibly slapdash way to deal with a beach that has been in public use for 100 years and has been guaranteed public access by Parliamentary legislation."
In response, a Dorset County Council spokesman said "Our rights of way officers are extremely experienced professionals who make decisions about the safety of the county’s paths every day."
“We are currently looking at whether part of the public right of way can be safely opened."
“As far as access to the beach is concerned the steps were removed for safety reasons after they were damaged in last winter's storms."
"The county council is not required to reinstate access to the beach via the steps because they are on private land, not on a public right of way. “
The footpath to Castle Cove Beach, which has been used by the public since 1899, was closed by Dorset County Council in Spring 2013 after it was deemed to be unsafe.
As a result of the closure, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council removed the access steps to the beach.