As tourists flock to Brighton Centre throughout the year, just a couple of miles down the road Whitehawk is hidden in the city’s shadows, not far from the prosperous Marina. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘wrong side of the tracks’; but for those living in Whitehawk, this is all too true, as Brighton & Hove City Council continue to overlook the suburb in favour of the city’s more affluent areas. 

In fact, according to the Council’s own 2022 Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, men in the more deprived parts of the city have a life expectancy 9.1 years younger than men in less deprived areas.

There are five primary issues facing Whitehawk: poverty and unemployment, food precarity, housing, health, and education. While these issues are of increasing concern across the country, Whitehawk appears to be disproportionately affected. In 2019, Whitehawk Estate was found to be the most deprived area in Brighton, but this is far from a new issue. In fact, in 2015, it was found to be the 332nd most deprived area in England, placing it just outside the bottom 1%. 

Meadhbh Boyce, 20, offered her unique perspective as a student at Sussex and an employee in Whitehawk. 

She said, “I study International Development at Sussex because it is meant to be the home of development studies. We learn about so many far away places in need of development but everyone is continuing to ignore somewhere so close to home. I wish the university and its students would put some pressure on the council and lobby for some real change.”

With no secondary schools in the area, local children are having to travel to various schools across the city. Class Divide, a local organisation focused on education in the Whitehawk area, have highlighted a number of concerns with this. They continue to raise awareness about fears from parents over the financial cost of public transport, and the health and educational cost of travelling such great distances early in the morning. This follows the revelation that only 37% of students in the East Brighton area – which includes Whitehawk Estate – achieved grades 9-5 in English and Maths GCSEs, compared to 75% in Withdean Ward.

Image: Aaron Galway

Many others in the local area have lost trust in the local council and are taking matters into their own hands. Thankfully, where Brighton & Hove City Council has failed to adequately support its constituents, the local community has stepped in.

After years of let down from the Council, two local mums started up Park Life Brighton, a community lobbying group attempting to increase recreational space across Whitehawk. With dwindling public health, and mass childhood poverty, such recreational spaces are vital for the community. 

The East Brighton Neighbourhood Action Plan outlines a number of issues facing the Whitehawk, Manor Farm, and Bristol Estate areas, as they found that 45% of children in the area are living in poverty, compared to only 18% across the rest of Brighton and Hove. Furthermore, 95.5% of people within this community have indices of multiple deprivation compared to just 20.1% across the rest of the country, highlighting the complexity and depth of the issue.

Another community resource offering support is The Whitehawk Foodbank, who have provided food to over 28,000 people in the area. With the rising cost of living crisis, and post-Brexit inflation, food precarity is an ever increasing concern. As government support is continuing to plummet, with criticism from Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, the pressure is increasingly placed on the community to help themselves.

Locals have continued to vocalise concern that community facilities in the area are increasingly being sold off or shut down. One such example, which had an enormous impact on the wider community was the closure of Whitehawk Inn, run by the charity Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) Sussex. 

In 2015, Whitehawk was the 332nd most deprive area in England, placing it just outside the bottom 1%

Before its closure, Whitehawk Inn was an invaluable community resource offering community support and a number of adult education services. Many individuals in the local community depended on its provision of IT facilities, financial advice, and well-being support, as well as its previous use as both a vaccination centre and polling centre. 

Unfortunately, due to a continued lack of funding, in March 2023, it was forced to shut down, as the community centre faced years of struggle due to rising rent, bills, and decreases in grant income.

Despite local residents continuing to express frustration, the council have failed to adequately support the community time and time again. Such community initiatives depend on donations and volunteers to provide local aid, so please consider contributing to these local initiatives to help make real change in our local area.

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