Labour have been criticised over plans to build a leisure centre despite pledges to keep a green space "open for all". 

Campaign literature ahead of last year’s council elections told voters if they wanted to “protect Benfield Valley” they should vote Labour in Brighton and Hove.

The leaflets mention keeping Benfield “open for all” because of its “extraordinary wildlife” and popularity for dog walking.

While they were in reference to housing developments, Dawn Barnett, former Conservative councillor for Hangleton and Knoll, criticised the political group for plans which could see a multi-storey leisure centre built in the valley.

Labour said its pledges ahead of the elections last year were solely about protecting the north section of the Benfield Valley from development. 

The Argus: The land has been earmarked as a potential option for the King AlfredThe land has been earmarked as a potential option for the King Alfred (Image: Google Earth)

In plans for a new leisure centre the council narrowed down a shortlist of 20 locations to just two. They chose the site on the south side of the Benfield Valley and the existing King Alfred site on Hove seafront. 

“The swimming pool should be on the seafront where it has always been, the King Alfred is a treasure down there,” said Dawn.

“That’s where people expect the swimming pool, not on a leisure area for people to take their dogs for a walk and children to play football.

“That is what the land there is leased for. It is for relaxation, not for building on.

“It is open space for the city, not just for Hangleton and Portslade. It is for the people of the city to come and have a picnic with their children when they’re on their holidays.

“We need the space for children and people to run around, play football and go on nature walks. They can learn about nature, we have fox families, owls, door mice. We need some of this space and need to protect it.

The Argus: The council is consulting on two sites for the King Alfred leisure centreThe council is consulting on two sites for the King Alfred leisure centre (Image: The Argus)

“They have voted six times to build on Benfield Valley, it’s hypocritical. I don’t mind who our councillors in Hangleton are but they should protect Benfield Valley.

“The leisure centre could have a hell of a lot of benefits on the seafront. All they want to do is sell that site, put the swimming pool up in Benfield and then put a load of expensive flats up on the seafront that locals can’t afford.”

The Argus revealed how the land between Old Shoreham Road and Sainsbury’s had a restrictive covenant which could prevent any development on the site.

Sainsbury's opened its store in October 1992 and 77 acres of land were given to Hove Borough Council with the restrictive covenant in place meaning that building on the land would require the supermarket giant's approval.

Labour Councillor Alan Robins, chairman of Brighton and Hove City Council’s culture, heritage, sport, tourism and economic development committee, said: “Dawn Barnett has either misunderstood the proposals or is deliberately misleading residents for political reasons.

“We have consulted residents on a choice of two possible sites for the new King Alfred – one being the land south of Sainsbury’s and adjacent to the Old Shoreham Road in Benfield, and the other being the current site in Hove.

“There is no proposal being presented that would include the King Alfred site being built in the north section of Benfield Valley, which we committed in our manifesto to protect from development.

“Over 3,500 residents responded to the consultation on the King Alfred and we expect to make a decision in the summer. After several failed attempts to re-develop the King Alfred, we believe our current proposals offer a unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to finally make this happen.”

The council will decide on where the King Alfred will go at its cabinet meeting this summer.