King Alfred developer given deadline to sign deal

The designs for the King Alfred Centre from Kingsway
The designs for the King Alfred Centre from Kingsway

Debate was heated as councillors expressed their anger about the lack of progress with the redevelopment of the King Alfred Leisure Centre.

A final deadline of the end of next month was agreed last night (December 6) for developer Crest Nicholson to sign a development agreement.

If they fail to do so, Brighton and Hove City Council could call off its current partnership with Crest.

Related stories: King Alfred development: Battle over affordable homes in ‘unviable’ scheme

Developer of King Alfred site in Hove asks for ‘more time’

The housebuilder was due to have signed the deal in mid-2016 but held off, citing rising construction costs and a slowing of the housing market.

Further help came from the government which offered £15 million towards the costs of the £400 million project to speed up the building of much-needed affordable homes.

The development includes a sports centre, swimming pool, underground parking and 565 homes in five blocks of flats up to 18-storeys high.

But Crest has told the council that the scheme has a funding gap of about £16 million if it is to be financially viable.

At the council’s policy, resources and growth committee, the Conservative group leader Cllr Tony Janio challenged Labour council leader Daniel Yates over whether the failure to deliver the King Alfred development was a resignation matter.

Cllr Janio said: “I am fed up with excuses going on year after year and month after month.

“What happens if the developer signs in January and just sits on it for another year.

“This sports centre needs to be built. We need to get serious.

“When the Conservatives are in administration in May, with me as leader, if we do not get this sports centre in a further position than this, I will resign as leader of the council.

“If you do not get this agreement signed by the end of January, will you resign?”

Cllr Yates said: “I’ve been living in Sussex for 20 years and going to the King Alfred for all that time and for all that time I have been told about the development.

“This is not the first time a development has not proceeded on the King Alfred site.

“I am hoping this is the final solution for the King Alfred site and I am not going to turn it into a political football.”

In an effort to appease Crest Nicholson the council had dropped its affordable housing requirement to 20 per cent. Its policy is 40 per cent.

Green councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty urged the committee to note ‘with grave concern’ that the 20 per cent affordable housing was subject to negotiation.

He said: “We have substantial concerns about the housing element. We do not think this is acceptable.”

During public questions Save Hove campaigner Valerie Painter, who led opposition to an earlier scheme on the site, asked if the council would consider a ‘serious rethink’ of the 15-year-old planning brief.

She also asked if the council would consider selling the site.

Cllr Yates said that the council was continuing with the plan as it was and any decision on a sale would have to go to a future policy, resources and growth committee and the full council for approval.

The project is due to be discussed by the committee again next month – and officials are able to seek new options if no agreement is in place by the deadline.