Hove lawns a green lung for fun between sea and city

4:00pm Tuesday 13th November 2012

By Tim Ridgway

During the summer, rarely a week goes by when there is not an event at Hove Lawns.

From the food festival to Paddle Round the Pier, tens of thousands of people flock to the open space which is crammed in by the shingle and sea to one side and grand Regency and Victorian architecture to the other.

As well as a place for large events, it forms the major part of the seafront that stretches from King Alfred Leisure Centre to the Peace Statue.

But those that use the area claim it offers much, much more.

Alice Wright, 38, who lives in the area with her husband, young son and dog, said: “This beautiful promenade provides a splendid showcase to the gorgeous Regency houses in their regulation Hove Cream, an iconic sight indeed.

“Who wouldn’t want to run or stroll along the seafront with a backdrop such as Adelaide Crescent or Brunswick Square?

“A trip to the area wouldn’t be complete without queueing for an ice-cream from the legendary Marrocco’s, probably followed up by a cup of tea from the Lawns Cafe, then getting your bread or cake order in at Sugardough in Kingsway before they sell out.

“It also includes that most sought-after of locations for all dog owners – the year- round dog-friendly beach.

“And of course, the Hove Lawns themselves – the twin cities’ playground – where nearly every weekend there is some kind of event or festival going on.

“Everyone comes to work out, make out, chill out, practise Tai Chi, sunbathe, walk their dogs, hold a birthday party and maybe have a cheeky barbecue on a long summer evening – remembering to put everything in the bins afterwards of course.”

Green lung

The lawns acts as a green lung to those living in the surrounding area.

But it also attracts those who want a bit of breathing space from the bright lights of Brighton.

Many of the grand houses that either face it or surround it are now split into flats meaning it supports far more people now than when the first turf was laid.

With the larger population comes competition for the space, which can lead to it becoming damaged by event organisers, barbecues or simply footfall.

Nick Mosley, the director of Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival, which uses the area twice a year, said: “The lawns are a great location for major events but I do think the concerns of the residents need to be acted on.

“We should be encouraging events that don’t damage the grass and soil – which is in a bad state in places – and allowing the lawns to recover.

“I think that improved facilities such as event power and water, and toilet facilities, would be a great step forward as generators and portable toilets aren’t particularly practical or environmentally friendly.”

That is also the view of Brighton and Hove City Council, which is asking for views on a stretch of the seafront from Hove Lagoon to Saltdean.

The Argus: King Alfred to the Peace Statue

Geoffrey Bowden, the council’s economic development committee chairman, said: “In the city we have something like 300 events through the year.

“Hove Lawns does take its share but we have to be careful about how much we use it as the grass needs to be cared for.

“We need to give it more breathing space but I do not anticipate us not using it.”

He added: “If an event proves to be popular, chances are that we will see it again.

“We’re looking for activities which draw people in but also prove to be sustainable.”

Speaking generally, Coun Bowden said: “We’re open to all ideas. Already we have had some very interesting ones.”

Gracious Hove

But space for change in this area, which stretches a mile from the city’s biggest indoor sports centre to the boundary of Hove and Brighton, does seem limited.

Valerie Paynter, of conservation group Save Hove, said there were “no development” opportunities between the King Alfred and Peace Statue.

She added: “What we need in Hove are things that are gracious so people can wallow in the seafront.

“Where is it? People do not want to jump up and down and play basketball.

“Where are the places where people can sit indoors and watch the sea in bad weather and the dark?”

Others take a more poetic look at the area.

Ward councillor Chris Hawtree said: “The sea, from which we all sprang, draws us back, something that delights in all seasons, even as the rain pours and the wind gets up speed.

"All life is there, each enjoying it as they will.

“Such is the spirit of the front that, sometimes, the mind blanks out the grimmer edifices; these are, though, matters to grasp, to debate.

“The promenade is a taste of the continent. Could it be more so? Those who relish the seaside do so in all its guises.

“One resident suggested that an elegant water fountain, from which to drink, would suit the promenade.

“A seaside stroll is always fortifying. It makes you want to live forever. Nobody does so. Enjoy the seafront as often as you can. It lifts the spirits.”

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