The £540 million redevelopment of Brighton seafront has been given unanimous cross-party political support.
Councillors from all three main parties spoke of their excitement at the overhaul of Churchill Square, the Brighton Centre, Kings West and Black Rock sites as they backed the scheme.
The plans, discussed at a specially-arranged policy and resources committee yesterday morning, would see a new 10,000-seat exhibition and live performance venue at the seafront Black Rock site and the extension of Churchill Square down to Kings Road.
Transport links were highlighted as a potential problem – but a park and ride scheme could be introduced to overcome it – as well as social housing.
But Councillors were warned that the greatest risk was to take no action and flag behind rival cities.
Geoffrey Bowden, chairman of the economic development and culture committee, said: “Now seems to be the perfect moment, everything seems right.
“If we don’t seize the moment, I think future generations will say we were lily livered. Now is not the time to be uncourageous. This is a huge opportunity to have an integrated transport system, not just from Black Rock to the stations but beyond to the King Alfred.”
Council officers warned the agreement was far from a “done deal” and a lot of work was needed to engage with residents and businesses.
It is hoped that local economic partnership Coast-to-Capital which has shown initial interest in the proposals will partner the project.
Labour group leader Warren Morgan said: “I think we have the opportunity to secure the city’s financial future for decades to come and to secure Brighton and Hove as a tourist, conference, event and shopping destination and venue for the 21st century.”
The plans would be part of a major overhaul of the city’s seafront, alongside the redevelopment of the King Alfred Leisure Centre, the construction of the i360, the regeneration of the Kings Road Arches and the expansion of Brighton Marina.
Council officers told the committee they hoped that all these projects would also attract further investment and development along the city’s coast.
The meeting heard that the Brighton Centre established the city’s reputation as a conferencing city but was now outdated.
An upgrade would cost up to £105 million – a price tag unlikely to be met by the council.
Green councillor Bill Randall said that the city needed to “reinvent ourselves and up our game” after being overtaken by conference venues in Harrogate, Manchester and Birmingham.
Nick Russell, director of developers Venue Ventures, has previously worked on the 13,500 capacity Leeds Arena which opened in September last year and has already hosted major acts including Elton John, Dolly Parton and The Who. Mr Russell said the new Brighton arena would attract bands that city residents currently travel to London to see.
Labour councillor Les Hamilton said, as well as bringing top acts back to the city, he the new venue also needed to attract top, international conferences.
Cllr. Kitcat said a vibrant conference industry was important for the city both nationally and internationally. He said: “I hope we can up our ambition with this and seeking to do something different that is greater and better.”
Cllr. Bowden said it was vital that there was also an entertainment element to the new arena to boost revenue: “The entertainment side is as important as the conference side, possibly more.”
Leeds Arena, now known as The First Direct Arena, was nominated for the 2014 Carbuncle Cup recognising the ugliest buildings in the country.
Conservative councillor Lynda Hyde stressed the importance of good design and praised recent projects to convert the former Co-op store in London Road and the new American Express offices in John Street, while reminding the committee of the failings of star architect Frank Gehry’s “wobbly towers” of the failed King Alfred development.
James Stevens, head of development at landowners Standard Life Investments, told the committee that the current layout behind Churchill Square including Canon Place and Russell Road was “obscene” and that the overhaul of the area would create an “unprecedented” opportunity to improve the public space.
He said: “This is not just about putting in more shops but creating that connectivity from Western Road to the sea.” He said the extended site would not be “just another vanilla shopping centre” but be “distinctive and complimentary to the Lanes”.
He said it would include more catering and leisure in a bid to increase the time shoppers spend in Churchill Square, which currently lagged behind similar shopping centres. Mr Stevens said work over the next 12 months would search for solutions to the transport problems including a possible park and ride and more bus routes between Brighton Railway Station and Black Rock.
Conservative councillor Ann Norman said transport was a “critical” issue, as the Brighton Centre was currently on the “perfect site”. She said: “A park and ride facility has got to be a priority for any new administration.”
Coun Randall said: “It will move congestion away from Churchill Square and on to the seafront, a positive in reducing pollution and congestion around Churchill Square and the Clock Tower.”
Labour councillor Jeane Lepper said the development of Black Rock could also boost businesses in Brighton Marina. Council funds would have to pay for conferences to be held temporarily elsewhere in the city after the Brighton Centre closes and before the new Black Rock arena opens.
Green councillor Ollie Sykes said the Brighton Centre should remain open until the “last minute”, after previous redevelopment plans caused bookings to drop off because of doubts surrounding its future.
Coun Lepper said the process should be progressed more quickly than other major projects in the city, describing the plans to develop Preston Barracks in Lewes Road into retail, employment and academic centre and 350 new homes as like “wading through treacle”.
Committee chairman Cllr. Kitcat said the process would be “more like a foxtrot” while strategic director Geoff Raw said a planning application for Churchill Square could be submitted within 12 months, with a further report back to councillors by early 2015.
Mr Raw said: “This development creates the opportunity to invest in the seafront in a way that would be very difficult if we were just looking at these sites on their own. There is no guarantee to leverage money from Government, but this does give us so much more opportunity to persuade Government.
“There are all sorts of practical considerations for placing a building on the seafront but also creating something iconic, something distinctive to add to Brighton’s rich and valuable cultural heritage.”
New stadium hotel plan approved
THE committee approved new arrangements for leases on council land for a proposed hotel at the American Express Community Stadium at Falmer and the redevelopment of City College Brighton and Hove.
The majority of discussions took place behind closed doors because of the business sensitivity of the financial details involved.
The lease on land next to the American Express Community Stadium, which the stadium owners want to develop land into a four star 150 bedroom hotel, restricted usage to just 30 days a year.
Albion executive director Martin Perry told The Argus yesterday that with the new lease agreement, which removes that restriction, a planning application could be submitted next year, but work would be unlikely to start before September’s Rugby World Cup fixtures.
A lease agreement was also reached over the City College site in Pelham Street, Brighton, at yesterday’s meeting.
The college came to the city council for assistance amid fears that neighbouring property owners could hold up the redevelopment which has already received planning consent or hold the college “to ransom”.
Under the agreement, the council would take a 99 year peppercorn lease out on the site to ensure the project can go ahead.
The scheme is predicted to bring in £79million of investment, 141 construction jobs and up to £1million additional local spending per year.
What the development means in numbers
New exhibition centre
- 10,000 max capacity with mix of seating and standing or 8,500 capacity all-seated.
- VIP hospitality and boxes.
- Main conference hall capable of hosting between 500 and 1,500 delegates.
- Additional meeting rooms for 1,250 delegates.
Development of the Brighton Centre and Kings West
- 238,000 sqft of additional retail
- 45,000 sqft of restaurants and cafes
- 30,000-40,000 sqft for cinema use
Estimated boost to council finances.
Churchill Square site:
- Net Additional Business rates – £3million a year
- Additional council tax – £300,000
- New Homes Bonus (payable for 6 years) – £400,000
Black Rock site:
- Net Additional Business rates – £500,000
- Additional council tax – £200,000
- New Homes Bonus (payable for 6 years) – £200,000
Total forecast of additional annual revenue £4.6million
Total development value of £540million
- Broken down into Churchill Square site £375million
- Black Rock site £165million
- 2,000 new full time equivalent jobs
- 1,200 construction jobs