£450m plan for Brighton seafront

From Brighton & Hove Independent – 

City councillors have been briefed about a hugely-ambitious blueprint to transform the seafront, from the Brighton Centre to Black Rock.

The confidential proposals are expected to cost at least £450 million and generate up to 2,000 jobs.

Plans envisage the demolition of the Brighton Centre and the Kingswest complex – widely regarded as two of the ugliest buildings in the city – to allow the expansion of Churchill Square Shopping Centre down to Kings Road.

Crucial to the viability of the plans – drawn up by council officers, in consultation with Standard Life Investments, which owns Churchill Square – could be a 20-storey apartment block at the bottom of West Street.

A new conference and entertainment centre, with seating for up to 10,000 people – twice the capacity of the Brighton Centre – is being proposed for the long-derelict, council-owned Black Rock site near Brighton Marina.

One well-informed source said: “The Brighton Centre is long past its sell-by date. And, despite some initial reservations about the distance, I think Black Rock could be a solution.”

The new venue, which would be capable of attracting global conferences and world-class performers, would be linked to the city centre by a rapid-transit system. Although nothing has been ruled in or out, the possibility of a high-speed monorail is not thought likely, according to one source.

The grand design would also provide opportunities to enhance Madeira Drive, including The Terraces, while also giving a welcome boost to Brighton Marina.

Standard Life is understood to have been the catalyst for outline proposals that have been discussed in private by a three-person working party of councillors, headed by Councillor Geoffrey Bowden, the Green chair of the council’s economic development and culture committee, and including Councillor Alan Robins, for Labour, and Councillor Vanessa Brown, for the Conservatives.

A special meeting of the city council’s powerful policy and resources committee has been fixed for 10am on Tuesday, December 16.

Green councillors and Conservative councillors were briefed on Monday; the Labour Group was briefed on Tuesday evening. All were urged to keep the commercially-confidential information under wraps.

Standard Life Investments, one of Europe’s most successful asset managers, has been keen to secure a degree of cross-party support for the project before investing millions of pounds – possibly £10 million – just to develop the plans further.

It does not want a once-in-a-generation development opportunity to be mired in the sort of political bickering and heel-dragging that delayed the go-ahead for the i360.

Proponents accept that the draft plans require much more work before funding can be considered and before possible development partners can be sought.

But they have been heartened by about 50 applications from developers who might be interested in coming forward with plans to build 400 homes and a new leisure centre on the site of the King Alfred Leisure Centre on Hove seafront. It is estimated such a development could cost £40 million.

Brighton and Hove City Council placed advertisements in Estates Gazette, the property trade publication, and in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) last month, with a November 10 deadline for submissions.