The deadline to agree the terms of the King Alfred leisure centre and housing project has been pushed back two months until the day after Brexit.
The delay was agreed this afternoon (Thursday 24 January) by a Brighton and Hove City Council committee after a last-minute plea by developer Crest Nicholson.
A letter sent to the council last night cited the increased risk of Britain leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement – known as a “no deal Brexit”.
The company said that it was still committed to the £230 million scheme, with almost £1 million already having been spent on preliminary work and £15 million funding pledged by the government.
As well as a new swimming pool and leisure centre, some 600 flats are planned on the seafront site, with blocks up to 20 storeys high.
Councillors expressed anger, frustration and disappointment at a meeting of the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee at Hove Town Hall this afternoon.
They agreed to delay signing a formal development agreement with Crest Nicholson but only until Saturday 30 March – the day after the date set for Brexit.
In the meantime they have asked officials to be ready to look at other ways to build the Hove seafront scheme.
All three parties also agreed to a Conservative proposal that at least 20 per cent of the homes on the King Alfred site should be classed as affordable – sold or rented for about 80 per cent of the market rate.
After the meeting Councillor Steve Bell, Tory deputy leader, said: “We need affordable housing. Crest needs to deliver.”
The Labour council leader Daniel Yates told the meeting: “We have to get on with this.”
Councillor Yates also said that the council needed to give confidence to the public that it could make a decision and make progress in delivering the scheme.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty criticised the way Crest had responded at the 11th hour, saying that Brexit-related risks were hardly new.
The Green councillor added: “Where on earth have they been? Under a rock? This isn’t good enough. It’s not fair on the residents of Hove either.”
Tory leader Councillor Tony Janio said: “I’m not convinced that Crest are committed to this project.
“We’ve extended the date (to sign the development agreement) to allay some of their fears.
“We really want this leisure centre and we need affordable housing in this city.”
Fellow Conservative councillor Andrew Wealls urged the council to learn from the the delayed process. Crest was chosen to build the scheme three years ago.
Councillor Wealls said: “I am quite pessimistic that this thing will go ahead.”
Labour councillor Les Hamilton and Tory councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn spoke about how they had struggled with the issue of a replacement King Alfred for over 40 years. Several schemes have been proposed but the 1930s building has only ever been modified rather than replaced.
After the meeting this afternoon Crest’s development director Peter Cusdin said that the company, like the council, had “invested a lot of money and effort” this far.
He said: “Crest is committed to proceeding with the project provided we’ve just got that clarity on Brexit.
“We had always been assuming an orderly and managed Brexit.
“Events over the past few weeks have presented a lack of clarity on the precise timing and form which is unsettling.
“We share the council’s ambition to deliver a top-quality mixed-use scheme to provide a leisure centre for the residents.”