Thousands of people flock to the beach in Hove on fine days to sunbathe, swim and take part in sport.

Yet few of them give a glance to the west where Shoreham Harbour starts just a few yards away from the lagoon.

The port extends almost four miles to the River Adur and is the biggest brownfield site in Sussex.

Yet much of it is surprisingly hidden from view and has proved hard to develop.

It is a tidal port which means that the size of ships that can use it is strictly limited and there is no feasible way of running a ferry service from Shoreham to France.

Road access is poor with heavy lorries using the busy and narrow A259 often after travelling on unsuitable residential roads from the A27.

Lorries coming from the west have to make an extraordinarily awkward manoeuvre to enter the port.

There has been no direct rail service since the authorities unwisely decided to remove a spur from the West Coastway line more than half a century ago.

The port also has the misfortune to straddle the boundary between East and West Sussex which means it has to deal with two county councils, Brighton and Hove City Council and Adur District Council.

These days the councils tend to co-operate with each other when dealing with the port but it has not always been so. Their internecine squabbling often held up much-needed development.

There has been a port at Shoreham for hundreds of years but a permanent harbour was not built until the middle of the 18th century. This meant that it was much busier than neighbouring Brighton where boats had to be hauled up the beach.

For a long time it was the energy centre of south Sussex with two electricity power buildings and a gasworks. They have all been demolished but there is now a modern plant fired by gas. Now Britain is going green, Shoreham is ideally placed to take full advantage of this. It is already taking part in trials using hydrogen as a cheap fuel in bountiful supply.

The tides at Shoreham are among the highest in the UK and could yield vast amounts of dependable energy. A couple of turbines near the entrance indicate the successful wind farm out to sea which could easily be expanded. Stormy seas could harness energy in the not too distant future.

Shoreham has over the years imported timber, aggregates and wine. A more recent trade in steel has been expanded.

There is also still a substantial fishing fleet in Shoreham which so far has conquered many difficulties.

I have thought for a long time that Shoreham could be used far more than at present for water-based leisure. It could also provide parking which would relieve the pressure on West Hove.

At the end of the last century, efforts were made by the port to carry out a comprehensive redevelopment scheme with partners from the public and private sectors. Most leisure sites were planned for the eastern end close to Hove Lagoon while the middle section would remain mainly industrial.

The redevelopment would contain 10,000 homes, mostly up the eastern end which seemed a fantastic figure to me at the time.

It would nearly have doubled the local population and I could not see where they would all go. But I had not reckoned for the huge increase in density for homes in Shoreham and Sussex as a whole.Since this ambitious scheme was abandoned, new housing has been built which has changed the character of Shoreham. The Ropetackle site has provided a fine arts centre but there is far too much housing which is urbanising the River Adur. A recently completed scheme on the A259 has all the attraction of a Soviet block of flats. The main feature of the project was a new entrance at the bottom of Church Road and Trafalgar Road in Portslade. This would have led northwards towards the A270 through a tunnel costing £50 million.

It would have solved the acute vehicle access problems for the port but no one seemed all that willing to pay for it which was a shame.

There was also insufficient attention paid towards other modes of transport including rail as the harbour runs parallel to the railway line.

Rather late in the day, Lord Bassam of Brighton proposed a swish new rail link between the marina and the harbour as a Millennium project but it was ruled out of order at Westminster. This was a pity since it had many merits for Brighton as well as Shoreham.

For some time the port’s board has been well run and in sharp contrast to some of the trustees gatherings in the distant past. I hope it will be given the money and the opportunity to make Shoreham a real attraction rather than a port that never seems to reach its potential.