Adam Trimingham’s Sage of Sussex Chronicle
Thousands of people flock to Hove Beach on sunny days to sunbathe, swim and play sports.
Yet few of them give a peek to the west where Shoreham Harbor begins a few feet from the lagoon.
The harbor stretches almost four miles to the River Adur and is the largest brownfield site in Sussex.
Yet much of it is surprisingly hidden from view and has proven difficult to develop.
It is a tidal port, which means that the size of vessels that can use it is strictly limited and there is no possible way to operate a ferry service from Shoreham to France.
Road access is poor, with heavy goods vehicles using the busy and narrow A259, often after using unsuitable residential roads from the A27.
Trucks coming from the west must perform an extraordinarily awkward maneuver to enter the harbor.
There has been no direct rail service since authorities recklessly decided to remove a spur from the West Coastway line more than half a century ago.
The port also has the misfortune of straddling the border between East and West Sussex, meaning it has to face two county councils, Brighton and Hove City Council and Adur District Council.
Nowadays, councils tend to cooperate with each other when dealing with the port, but this has not always been the case. Their infighting often delayed much needed development.
There has been a harbor in Shoreham for hundreds of years, but a permanent harbor was not built until the mid-18th century. This meant there were a lot more people than neighboring Brighton where the boats had to be hoisted onto the beach.
It has long been the energy hub of South Sussex with two power stations and a gas plant. They have all been demolished but there is now a modern gas-fired power station. Now that Britain is going green, Shoreham is ideally placed to take full advantage. It is already participating in trials using hydrogen as a cheap and abundant fuel.
The tides at Shoreham are among the highest in the UK and could produce large amounts of reliable power. A few turbines near the entrance indicate the success of the offshore wind farm which could easily be expanded. Stormy seas could harness energy in the not too distant future.
Shoreham has imported timber, aggregates and wine over the years. A more recent steel trade has developed.
There is also still a large fishing fleet in Shoreham which has so far overcome many difficulties.
I have long thought that Shoreham could be used much more than it is today for water recreation. It could also provide parking that would relieve the pressure on West Hove.
At the end of the last century, the port endeavored to carry out a comprehensive redevelopment plan with partners from the public and private sectors. Most of the recreation sites were planned at the eastern end near Hove Lagoon while the middle part would remain primarily industrial.
The redevelopment would contain 10,000 units, mostly at the east end, which I thought was a fantastic number at the time.
It would have almost doubled the local population and I couldn’t see where they would all go. But I hadn’t anticipated the huge increase in house density in Shoreham and Sussex as a whole. Since the abandonment of this ambitious project, new housing has been built which has changed the character of Shoreham. The Ropetackle site provided a fine arts center but there is far too much housing that urbanizes the River Adur. A recently completed project on the A259 has all the appeal of a Soviet apartment building. 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 north to the A270 through a tunnel costing £ 50million.
This would have solved the acute problems of vehicle access to the port, but no one seemed willing to pay for it, which was a shame.
Other modes of transport, including rail, have not been sufficiently taken into account, as the port runs parallel to the railroad.
Fairly late in the day, Lord Bassam of Brighton proposed a new rail link between the marina and the port as a Millennium project, but it was ruled out of order at Westminster. It was a shame because he had many merits for Brighton as well as Shoreham.
For a while, the port’s board of directors was well run and contrasted sharply with some of the gatherings of trustees in the distant past. I hope she gets the money and the opportunity to make Shoreham a real attraction rather than a port that never seems to reach its potential.