West Sussex County Council is to set up chipping operations along local beaches strewn with timber from the cargo ship Ice Prince.

The council said it was “delighted” that the insurers had agreed to let some of the cargo be chipped rather than collected and destroyed, although it added that the beaches would remain “out of action for several more weeks” as contractor DRS continues to clear the wood.

“We are delighted that the cargo insurers have agreed the wood can be chipped,” said Peter Evans, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for public protection.

“It means the timber can be recycled instead of destroyed, and it will significantly reduce the number of large vehicles going down to the beach front.”

Some local borough councils are temporarily paying for the clear-up, however, the money will be recouped when insurance claims are eventually settled.

Areas of beach in Worthing were due to reopen earlier this week, but Worthing Borough Council spokesperson Wendy Knight said that the final stage of clean-up had taken longer than expected as the council wanted to ensure the beach was completely cleared.

About 3,000 tonnes of Swedish timber is still on board the Ice Prince on the seabed of the English Channel.