New conference centre could be built in Brighton’s city centre
A new 10,000 seat conference centre and entertainment venue could be built on or close to the existing Brighton Centre site rather than Black Rock.
The longstanding Waterfront project aims to replace the Brighton Centre with a new venue at Black Rock and extend Churchill Square down to the seafront.
But the owners of Churchill Square, Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI), have now asked for a 12-month pause while they investigate building the venue in the city centre.
ASI signed a conditional land acquisition agreement (CLAA) with the council to buy the Brighton Centre, Kingswest and NCP site behind the Grand Hotel in April this year.
But a couple of months later, in July, ASI raised the possibility of putting the venue on the central site instead.
A report going before the Policy and Resources Committee next Thursday (December 5) recommends a 12-month pause in the current legal agreements to explore this possibility.
The report said: “Since the signing of the CLAA in April 2019 ASI have been dedicating resource to revisiting the opportunities available on the central site.
“This includes the Brighton Centre site, Kinsgwest site and NCP site to the rear of the Grand Hotel.
“With the acknowledged structural changes in the retail market, as intended by the CLAA, their first task has been to fully interrogate and understand what will support a commercial proposition for the long term on the central site.
“In July an approach was made to officers to see if exploring an option of a venue on the central site could be made to work and to check whether this would be received favourably by the city council if time and resource were invested.
“The proposal presented as a concept at this stage demonstrated that with the new land holdings now acquired by ASI, there would be an opportunity to revisit a venue on a centrally located site, rather than at Black Rock.
“It was understood by all parties that if this opportunity were to be fully explored, and the council were to support it, an agreement to ‘pause’ the existing legal agreement would be required.”
If the pause is agreed, enabling works are still expected to go ahead at Black Rock, paid for with £12.11million from the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, which must be used by March 2021.
The work includes replacing the sea wall and Marina pedestrian access, improvements and new signals to the junction at Duke’s Mound and new infrastructure for future public transport.
A new activity area by creating a glass facade for the Reading Room, an informal play area and multi-use games area is planned for the site.
The report said: “If a central site solution can be delivered on commercial and legal terms that are acceptable to the council, this will also release the opportunity to revisit what might be delivered at the Black Rock site.
“At this point, the enabling project will be complete and the site will have been improved, allowing a commercial proposition to be explored that also meets the aspirations of the city plan and seafront strategies for a signature high quality development that will help regenerate the eastern seafront for the long term.”
The Policy and Resources Committee is due to meet in public at Brighton Town Hall from 4pm on Thursday 5 December.