Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne was among guests at the grand opening of Brighton's long-awaited Sea Lanes pool today.

She was joined by council leader Bella Sankey and other guests, many of them keen for a dip.

Since August last year, a huge construction site has dominated much of the beach on Madeira Drive.

This is now the National Open Water Swimming Centre with a glittering, heated 50m pool at its heart.

Hundreds of swimmers turned up for the launch event. 

The Argus: A swimmer enjoying the waterA swimmer enjoying the water (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

The festivities kicked off with a swim relay for the teams and organisations behind the centre including the directors, construction team and council.

Joe McNulty, director of Sea Lanes, said: "It has been great today. It feels like the end of a long and tricky journey.

"I hope that now it is finished people see that it is a good addition to the neighbourhood and it sits comfortably with Madeira Terrace.

"It's a 21st century adaptation of what the Victorians might have done."

The Argus: The entrance to Sea LanesThe entrance to Sea Lanes (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

The swimming pool is open to members and the public who book in advance, which Joe said has been an incredible success so far.

"We've had to pause membership as we have 1,500 people already and we want people to have the opportunity to swim comfortably.

"It's such a unique facility so we don't really have an idea for numbers. Some people say they are going to swim once a day."

Sea Lanes, unlike other pools, is set up to “encourage people to get better at swimming so they can go into the sea when they are comfortable,” he added.

The Argus: Joe McNultyJoe McNulty (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

It was opened by Olympic swimmer and open water world champion Keri-anne, who travelled from London for the event.

She said: “It’s so incredible to see something that looks even better in person than it looks on the drawings. I don’t think anyone expected it to be as close to the water as it is and with so many buildings next to it.

“This area just looks so amazing and for me, even better that people are going to use this pool.

“The ideal scenario is that they swim here and get more confident before taking it out into the sea.”

The Argus: Kerri-anne PayneKerri-anne Payne (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

The pool will be heated at a mild 19 degrees celsius all year round, which is equivalent to the sea temperature in the height of summer.

It is also only 1.275 metres deep – so there will be no diving or bombing.

The Argus: Bella Sankey at Sea LanesBella Sankey at Sea Lanes (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

Cllr Sankey, who was at the launch with fellow Labour councillors, hopes the pool and surrounding development will bring a new lease of life to Madeira Drive and the neglected terrace.

She said: “This project has been a really long time in development but this is a huge and fantastic day for the city.

“We have this stunning swimming pool now in Kemp Town on our beach. I couldn’t be more pleased with the location. Having such a huge landmark in an area that understandably people feel has been neglected and overlooked is huge.

“It will help to regenerate this area and bring our city together, and bring a renewed focus and spotlight on sorting out Madeira Terrace and sorting out our heritage.

“I had a really positive conversation with the managing director about making this asset available to as many people in our city as possible, including people on low incomes and those who can’t afford the membership prices.”