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Belle Tout Lighthouse Plans Stymied

Eastbourne Council Raised Prices For Road

Belle Tout LighthouseAll anyone has ever wanted was for Belle Tout Lighthouse, Sussex, UK, to be a bed and breakfast. When the Belle Tout trust was formed, that was their plan. When the lighthouse was snatched from under them by a private buyer, those were the ultimate plans by the new owner. But now, the Eastbourne Town Council has thrown a bit of a snag in the work. The price of an easement, to be exact, which has nearly tripled in price.

Originally planned to be open this summer, the work at the future lighthouse Bed and Breakfast has been slowed by repairs to the outside, and the ongoing discussion about the easement and access road. David Shaw, the owner of the lighthouse, was told by the previous owner, Mark Roberts,that the council had said an access road must be built before the building could be opened to the public and Shaw says he saw paperwork agreeing to an easement cost of £15,000 ($24,675 US). However, now the council is telling him the cost of the easement has gone up to £85,000 ($139,826 US)! That’s quite a jump. And months of negotiation, while bringing down the price to £40,000 ($65,800), still is too high from the original numbers.

The Arguments From Both Sides

In a story at the Bexhill-On-Sea Observer, the two sides lay out their arguments:

From Shaw:

“Not only is it costing me to build the road but I now have to pay this easement too. I believed, before I bought the property, that it would cost £15,000 and I do not think that was an unreasonable assumption. Surely the council is not suggesting this figure was a special rate for Mark Roberts? Property and land value has decreased since the £15,000 figure was agreed with Mark Roberts so one could argue the cost should have gone down. I really do feel Belle Tout is an asset to the area and tourism in general, but the council don’t seem to accept that. I am not asking the council for any money, I just want its co-operation in restoring what I believe is a valuable building.”

The Council replies:

“Mr. Shaw has requested that the council provides rights over an area of land at Belle Tout, comprising approximately 850 square metres, which will dissect the council’s land holding. The council is under a statutory duty to achieve ‘best consideration’ for its all of its assets. For Mr. Shaw the right would provide his property with a documented secure access as opposed to the temporary access that currently exists and it is considered that the new access right will substantially increase the value of the Belle Tout, whilst the value of the council’s holding will decrease.

“As regards any earlier offers the council may have made to other parties, like all property transactions, these are without prejudice and subject to contract.For one reason or another, the parties chose not enter into an agreement at that time and the terms and conditions are certainly of no relevance now. Mr. Shaw has been advised that he should have taken professional advice on this matter prior to purchasing the property, especially as a secure access is a fundamental element in the value of any property.”

Quite the extortionist attitude, I’d say. While they’re certainly entitled to a reasonable compensation for the easement, the economic benefits of the extra tourism money that it will bring in will more than cover the difference in price. And as an aside, the renovation is being filmed by a television production company for the television series Build a New Life in the Country. You’d think the Council would be more cooperative and not so money hungry, particularly being in the public eye. The series is expected to air in late autumn, when the work is expected to be done. That is, if the council can lower their sights and cut a break to the man who is bringing the light back to its former glory. To the town’s (and everyone’s) benefit.

Photo Credit: Belle Tout Lighthouse, February 2009, by Bods. Some rights reserved.

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  1. 9 Comment(s)

  2. By Gary aka lighthousephoto on Aug 7, 2009 | Reply

    The rapacious attitude of city governments, councils, or whatever they are in whichever country they’re located in when it comes to profiting off of the world’s maritime heritage is disgusting.

    With property values declining, the value of the easement goes up? Why, so that the council can offset other financial losses at the expense of someone else?

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  10. By Edward Meekins on Mar 25, 2016 | Reply

    Well, we all here love lighthouses, but we have to remember that it is just a normal thing for them (especially for the older ones) to slowly disappear. I wouldn’t want any of the lighthouses to be turned into a bed and breakfast but if it is this or being demolished - the choice is obvious.

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