From pitch and putt to promenading, skateboarding to wakeboarding – there’s something for everyone on Hove seafront.
Tens of thousands of people flock to the stretch of coast between the King Alfred leisure centre and Hove Lagoon to keep active and fit.
But as Brighton and Hove City Council asks locals what they think could be done to improve the area, many are agreed: “not much”.
More than two miles away from the busy bright lights and buzz between Brighton’s piers, it is a quieter, more peaceful area used predominantly by locals and families.
With lots to do – some indoors, others in the open – it is populated with people all year round.
Among the more popular attractions is Hove Lagoon Watersports, which was founded 18 years ago.
Offering a space for windsurfing, wakeboarding and paddleboarding, it is used by more than 70 community groups and schools.
Harvey Dawkins, one of the firm’s directors, said: “With the skatepark, V-Bites café, playground and the watersports centre it’s a really busy area.
“But there is not much conflict between groups; it’s loosely organised but not over-developed.
“I personally do not think there’s a need for much else in the lagoon but we could make it better.
“One thing that could be done is perhaps a direct transport link from the centre of Brighton.”
It is this isolation which perhaps explains why the area has evolved gradually and quietly over time since it was first developed in the late 19th century.
The seaside air which first attracted people is still enjoyed by countless walkers, runners and cyclists.
Others prefer the added attractions of fishing, sailing, lawn bowls, pitch and putt and tennis.
Sarah Aldenhoven, 32, of New Church Road, Hove, regularly runs and cycles in the area.
She said: “It is actually my favourite part of the city.
“I like the fact it’s a lot less touristy than the busy strip by the Palace Pier.
“The View, my favourite café, makes it always worth a stroll.
“The only shame is that cycling this lovely bit of seafront is not allowed.”
The plan is to develop the “unique character areas of the iconic Brighton and Hove seafront to create attractive, sustainable, high quality environments for residents, businesses and visitors throughout the year”.
Geoffrey Bowden, the council’s economic development committee chairman, said: “I do not want to impede too much as we want people to come up with ideas.
“It’s amazing, only a few days after the piece first appeared in The Argus, how many people have sent me views.”
Much of the improvements to the area will depend on new plans for the King Alfred leisure centre, which, despite its dilapidated state, remains the city’s largest indoor sports facility.
The 1930s development, which was used as a training centre for the Royal Navy in the Second World War, looks tired, outdated and is simply not up to scratch.
But, after the planned Gehry Towers’ scheme collapsed for economic reasons, the council, which owns the land, has not come up with any ideas of how to develop it.
Coun Bowden said a cross-party panel of councillors was to meet at the end of the month to discuss potential options for the site.
He said: “It’s a massive site but it’s past its use by date. We’re spending huge amounts of money just keeping it functioning.
“All this encourages people to go out of the city to get the facilities they want.”
Blueprint for the future
The local authority’s City Plan, which will act as a blueprint for development for the next 20 years, allocates 400 homes on the site which would be mixed use and potentially include shops, a café, a restaurant or community facilities.
But aside from that, those that work and exercise in the area do not believe wholesale changes are needed.
Richard Howe is manager of Hove Deep Sea Anglers in Western Esplanade, Hove, which has about 1,400 members for six years.
Mr Howe said: “I think having our own car park helps as people like to bring their dogs down or go for a walk on the prom before popping into the club for a coffee.
“It’s a locals’ area really. We do not get tourists down here, just people who live locally and want to use the beach or go for a walk on the promenade.
“There’s not much I would do to change it.”
Graham Cox, who represents part of the area on the council, said: “It’s a nice, pleasant area but it could be improved further.
“The pitch and putt has seen better days and it’s not helped by people being allowed to rough sleep there.
“The big thing is to get the King Alfred going. There are a lot of ideas and views about it but so far unfortunately there has been a lack of action.”
Coun Cox added he was concerned about the impact parking prices and reduced council subsidies to bowls clubs would have on the area in the immediate future.
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Read The Argus tomorrow for a focus on the coastline from the King Alfred to the Peace Statue in Hove.
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