Brighton and Hove seafront heading into a new era

Brighton's Palace Pier

Brighton's Palace Pier Buy this photo

First published in News by

The seafront is Brighton and Hove’s lifeblood – a place for its residents to work, rest and play. As Brighton and Hove City Council launches a consultation into improving a 13km stretch, TIM RIDGWAY takes a trip to the traditional seaside image of the city.

Think Brighton and chances are thoughts will spring to the small stretch of the seafront dominated by the Palace Pier.

The picture-perfect postcard image of the lit-up Victorian attraction protruding out of the English Channel has become a magnet for tourists since opening in 1899.

But the area from The Grand Hotel to the Palace Pier roundabout also plays an important part in the formation of the city as we know it.

It began with Dr Richard Russell, who championed the health benefits of seawater in the 18th century when Brighton was still the small fishing village of Brighthelmstone.

Throughout the years, the Prince Regent, clashing mods and rockers and Prime Ministers are among the millions of people to have graced the promenade as they all took their own memories of the Sussex coast home.

Even today, it acts as the heartbeat for the rest of the 13km coastal stretch from Hove Lagoon to Saltdean, which Brighton and Hove City Council is asking for views on.

Within a pebble’s throw, there are four of the city’s major tourist attractions – Palace Pier, the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Wheel and the Sealife Centre.

The Argus: Pier and prom

And, despite the turbulent fortunes associated with the traditional British seaside, those responsible for running them maintain this is something that should not be lost.

Anne Martin, general manager of Brighton’s Palace Pier, said: “The feedback we get – and you only have to stand on the pier to hear people say ‘isn’t it great to have the sea air’ – is that the British seaside tradition is still alive.

“We are so close to London and the towns in the M25 belt and people do want to get away to the coast. We certainly have to build on that.”

Among the visitors yesterday were Ben Lille, 27, and his girlfriend Jude Green, who were on a four-day break from south London.

The impression they described was definitely of ‘Kiss Me Quick’ ilk.

Mr Lille said: “The pier is a nostalgic, camp and colourful experience.

“The attractions are fun, if a little dated, but the prices are certainly higher than at other resorts.

“The pier itself is clean, well looked after and seems to attract a varied clientele.”

As well as the traditional seaside image, there is a rich cultural and artistic heritage to the promenade.

Sculptures

Sitting on the pebble beach, some could be forgiven for thinking it was a scene from Brighton Rock. A walk down East Street and thoughts may drift to the famous alleyway scene between Phil Daniels and Lesley Ash in Quadrophenia.

Dotted around on the promenade there are a variety of concrete shapes, such as the recognisable Doughnut, which amuse and entertain those passing. The upper promenade has also been turned into an outside gallery giving respite to people walking, running or cycling on the pavement near King’s Road.

That’s not forgetting the quaint Brighton Fishing Museum, traditional smokehouse, or the Brighton Grand itself, which was damaged so horrifically in 1984 by an IRA bomb.

Council leader Jason Kitcat, who also represents the area on the local authority, described it as “one of the successes of the seafront”.

He added: “From 20 years ago, there has been complete regeneration. If you walk down there, it’s all independent shops, which is quite unique and something we should be really proud of.

“It’s about what we can do to consolidate the seafront with the rest of the city.

“We have already seen the pedestrian crossing improvement works to East Street which makes it easier for people getting from the city centre to the promenade. The last piece of the jigsaw is the i360 and surrounding area.”

However, Ms Martin said more could be done to improve the appeal to people, claiming some areas had been “neglected”.

She said: “We have probably seen as many people during the day but there are certainly far fewer people in the evenings and late nights.

“They are not separate, day runs into night.

“I would like to see more done as part of the wider night-time economy with advertising and creating a message so people are encouraged to stay. They should know what areas to go for families, areas for partygoers and areas for younger people.”

Visitor attractions

Ms Martin suggested a way of attracting more visitors in the evening could be attracting a large department store to the city.

Adam Chinery, of Brighton Seafront Traders’ Association, said the seafront was becoming a “six-month seafront”.

He added: “There’s a big range of shops, which are all run as independents but there needs to be more encouragement to open all year round.”

Mr Chinery, who runs Brighton Watersports, suggested the local authority look at following Hastings Borough Council’s lead and install artistic lighting.

He said: “The seafront has got some fantastic shapes with the arches and artwork. If we can look at lighting not only as a safety and security thing but also as artistic then I think it will really make a difference at nights.”

Such improvements would not break the bank, but they would make sure that the area around the Palace Pier continues to be the beating heart of the seafront for years to come.

What the future could hold

  • Improve pedestrian access between the Palace Pier and promenade
  • Develop artist and fishing quarters
  • Improve pedestrian crossing across King’s Road
  • New or improved conference centre
  • New lighting and benches and less street clutter near Palace Pier

See the latest news headlines from The Argus:

More news from The Argus

Follow @brightonargus

The Argus: Daily Echo on Facebook - facebook.com/southerndailyecho Like us on Facebook

The Argus: Google+ Add us to your circles on Google+

Comments (2)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

7:36pm Thu 15 Nov 12

Sussex jim says...

Let's extend the word's first electric railway, initially to the Marina and the Palace pier; but then perhaps to Saltdean and Hove.
Remember that the first inter-city electric network, the Southern railway, played a large part in bringing day trippers to Brighton from 1932 until the rise of the motor car for the masses, and still does.
Keep the original cars of the Volks railway, or replicas of, and perhaps power it with a steam generator burning rubbish.
Let's extend the word's first electric railway, initially to the Marina and the Palace pier; but then perhaps to Saltdean and Hove. Remember that the first inter-city electric network, the Southern railway, played a large part in bringing day trippers to Brighton from 1932 until the rise of the motor car for the masses, and still does. Keep the original cars of the Volks railway, or replicas of, and perhaps power it with a steam generator burning rubbish. Sussex jim
  • Score: 0

7:46pm Thu 15 Nov 12

bug eye says...

This area needs a spring clean and revamp starting with the basics. new paving that matches, new attractive lighting and planting and seating, less tacky signage and less clutter all around. the never ending traffic systems are ugly and a shared space system would be much better. Someone please dig out that horrible old polluted hedge lining the road. Sort out that ugly piece of concrete thats an excuse for a roundabout and make an attractive planted artistic one instead. Give notice to the ugly rock and alcohol newsagents to smarten up their frontage with a quality cohesive makeover. demolish the brighton centre and odeon asap and bring some more shops to the front. Allow free parking after 6 if there is any chance of increasing the nightime economy and bring down parking charges alongside better public transport along the seafront. We need visible street cleaners and security a no street drinking policy and fines for litter dropping in this zone especially on the beach with clear signage 'do not drop litter, keep Brighton and Hove tidy' bine it take it home or face a fine'. Clearly plenty to be getting on with.
This area needs a spring clean and revamp starting with the basics. new paving that matches, new attractive lighting and planting and seating, less tacky signage and less clutter all around. the never ending traffic systems are ugly and a shared space system would be much better. Someone please dig out that horrible old polluted hedge lining the road. Sort out that ugly piece of concrete thats an excuse for a roundabout and make an attractive planted artistic one instead. Give notice to the ugly rock and alcohol newsagents to smarten up their frontage with a quality cohesive makeover. demolish the brighton centre and odeon asap and bring some more shops to the front. Allow free parking after 6 if there is any chance of increasing the nightime economy and bring down parking charges alongside better public transport along the seafront. We need visible street cleaners and security a no street drinking policy and fines for litter dropping in this zone especially on the beach with clear signage 'do not drop litter, keep Brighton and Hove tidy' bine it take it home or face a fine'. Clearly plenty to be getting on with. bug eye
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree