Geoffrey Theobald: Brighton and Hove is open for business

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald is leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council
Councillor Geoffrey Theobald is leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council

It certainly seems that investor confidence is returning in Brighton and Hove.

I have written before in this column about how frustrated I have been in recent months by the council’s planning department, so much so that the Conservative group moved a notice of motion at a recent Full Council meeting calling for a root and branch review of the service. I know that a significant proportion of the local business community and many residents shared our frustration.

However, I do get the distinct feeling that our intervention may have had the desired effect and in recent weeks I believe we have turned a corner. For example, last week, the planning committee approved plans for the long-overdue regeneration of the Aquarium Terrace.

Just a bit further inland, the Circus Street redevelopment has at last got underway and final approval has been given by the Treasury for the Royal Sussex County Hospital redevelopment.

Moving up North Street, we have the exciting prospect of an £8 million investment in the creation of a new lane next to the old Hanningtons building and further up still, at the Clock Tower, John Lewis have announced their intention to apply for planning permission for a new department store on the Boots site.

And last but not least, next January the council’s policy and resources committee will get to decide upon a preferred scheme for the redevelopment of the King Alfred leisure centre in Hove. It certainly seems that investor confidence is returning in Brighton and Hove and, as often happens with these things, the approval of one scheme encourages others to come forward. Our city is once again looking as though it is ‘open for business’.

This is also very good news for the council, which within the next few years, will get to keep 100% of the business rates that are generated in the city.

The Conservative group was given a presentation last week by the team behind the proposed new John Lewis store. And although we are still a few years away from a potential grand opening, the prospect of finally having John Lewis in the city is very exciting and will be a huge boost for our retail sector in general. We were very encouraged to hear that John Lewis is committed to a high quality building design and are also interested in making public realm improvements to the Clock Tower area.

I am hopeful that the Aquarium Terrace decision will also be the trigger for a wider regeneration of the Madeira Drive area, particularly now that we have discovered just what a poor state the physical structure of the terraces are in. And on that note, it was also good to see the Government give us a helping hand with the award of £50k from their Coastal Revival Fund to enable the council to draw up a viable long-term business plan for the area.

It is nice to be able to end the year on a positive note and, as this will be my final column of 2015, may I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a healthy and successful 2016!