King Alfred is dead! Crest Nicholson pulls out of Hove seafront project

Posted On 13 Aug 2019 at 4:15 pm

The developer Crest Nicholson has pulled out of the £228 million project to redevelop the King Alfred Leisure Centre on Hove seafront.

The housebuilder was picked to build a new swimming pool and sports centre and 565 new homes by Brighton and Hove City Council more than three years ago.

Today the council said: “Developer Crest Nicholson has reluctantly taken the decision to withdraw from the King Alfred development in Hove.

“The council has been working with Crest Nicholson Regeneration since 2016 when it won the bid to redevelop the 1.8 hectare King Alfred site.

“Plans include replacing the ageing King Alfred Leisure Centre with improved, extended and modern sports facilities and building much-needed new housing, including affordable new homes.”

Crest Nicholson’s interim chief executive Chris Tinker said: “It is with disappointment that Crest Nicholson has taken the difficult decision to withdraw from the King Alfred development in Hove.

“Crest has worked with the council, the Starr Trust and other stakeholders for over three years with a view to creating a high-quality viable and deliverable scheme but has reluctantly come to the conclusion that the ambition of the scheme in these uncertain times is too great and that the project is simply unable to deliver the required social and physical outputs given the related costs and values.

“The scheme has presented a series of challenges over the promotion period and, while we would pay tribute to the council and its advisers in working collaboratively with our own team to overcome such obstacles, it has become a more complicated project than originally envisaged in terms of both planning and delivery.

“It is now increasingly apparent that the growing cost of delivering the scheme, including the council’s new £50 million leisure centre, at a time when uncertainty has been increasing and values falling, means that the project is no longer able to support the provision of any affordable housing and remain viable.

“This position, despite significant funding pledges from both the council and Homes England, is unlikely to change and the board has therefore reluctantly decided that it is not willing to promote and deliver a development of this scale and nature.

“All stakeholders have been made aware and we will continue to work with all partners to ensure a smooth transition.”

A total of £23 million of public money – £15 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) and £8 million from the council – was approved to assist the developer and facilitate the building of a new sports centre and 565 homes on the seafront site.

The Labour council leader Nancy Platts said: “I’d like to thank everyone who has tried so hard for so long to make this project a success.

“Of course we are hugely disappointed that Crest Nicholson has confirmed it won’t be progressing the redevelopment of the King Alfred site.

King Alfred Leisure Centre – Picture courtesy of Wikiwand

“We’ve worked closely with their team to find a financially viable scheme to deliver a new public sports and leisure facility and provide affordable housing.

“We appreciate the difficulties and complexities of the project and appreciate too the efforts made by Crest Nicholson but the council makes no apologies for pressing the developer to deliver the scheme it selected in 2016.

“Finding a viable alternative will be our upmost priority and this will include consulting with the local community who have been so patiently awaiting this development.

“Our objective has always been to provide a new sports and leisure centre as well as much needed affordable housing for Hove. We will continue to explore all ways possible to get the most we can from the site so it is of maximum benefit to local people.”

The council has already begun exploring alternative delivery options, as agreed by councillors earlier in the year, and an update on the next steps for the King Alfred project will be presented to the Policy and Resources Committee in the autumn.

Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth said: “I have highlighted a catalogue of failures by the Labour administration from the outset and predicted exactly that this would happen over two years ago.

“By allowing Crest Nicholson to keep the city on the line for so long, without taking any sort of deposit or fee, the city has lost millions.

“There should be resignations over this.

“On a personal note, I feel for Rob Starr who has put so much into trying to make Crest and the council see sense.”

  1. Billy Reply

    Can we have the Frank Gehry towers now, please? Pretty please.
    Oh for decent bit of imaginative architecture.

    • saveHOVE Reply

      You don’t know, do you! Those two central towers were just concrete cruciform towerblocks! What the drawings showed you was just crumpled aluminium sheets with sq holes in them which wiuld have been tacked onto the concrete towers outside balconies/walls – wherever.

      Residents wd have had rattling metal outside their windows, slowly turning black over time. This info was in the application for anyone who cared to read it!

      Detail for affixing was not bothered with!

  2. CrispyCreme Reply

    Well, they’ve taken a sensible decision to cancel their involvement when sales prices are falling, and the cost of imported materials due to the weak GBP exchange rate has risen by cerca 17% for anything purchased in euros or dollars, around 15% against the chinese remnimbi over the past 3 years and wages have risen (so says the latest reports), mind you, it has cost Crest Nicholson over £1 million in architects fees etc etc so far, not counting whatever the council has spent!

    Brexit the gift that keeps on giving…

    • saveHOVE Reply

      Correction: The bid was organised & paid for by The Starr Trust & backers who brought Crest in at the end as prospective ptnrs to deliver the housing element. That includes choosing & using the architects.

      Crest only agreed to come on board if the Starr Trust made the bidding short list which it did. The risk etc from that point on fell in Crest – who have now bottled – and your analysis is right – but Crest is also dealing with internal issues & profitability

  3. Keith Turner Reply

    This is so frustrating. Plenty of blame to go around but I think it’s a bit rich of the Conservatives to be calling out Labour on this when it was them that voted down Gehrys proposal in 2008. We could of had those 750 new homes and leisure centre built and in use by now.

    This whole situation is beyond ridiculous.

    • saveHOVE Reply

      The Karis/Gehry scheme GOT PLANNING CONSENT!!!! Viability prevented them building it! They lost ING straight off & were unable to get new finance to replace them.

  4. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    This time around, the runner-up design – by Nick Lomax – was far better than the dreary Starr/Nicholson one, as many said. So this collapse could be a bless. A chance to get a good design. It will be interesting see what cllr Robins has to say about all this. He has not done so. It is part of his Committee’s remit.

    • saveHOVE Reply

      The planning brief is the problem – whoever designs & since the Green Administration allowed officers to basically recycle the old brief from the Karis years with just tweaks, we are where we are: again.

      And neither bid design was final for a planning application.

      That site needs to be used to earn more than just council tax from flats for the city.

      • Rolivan Reply

        Is it possible for The Councils Pension Fund be used to invest in a project like this with all properties being rentals like Legal and General are proposing near Brighton Station?

      • Mike EDDOWES Reply

        Shame. But difficult times with properties not selling and prices reducing on existing stock and the likelihood of a recession.

  5. SM Reply

    Nice that this useless council has spunked £8 million of public money on this eh?

    • Bill Reply

      No, they haven’t.

      The money was made available if the development was to go ahead. They haven’t paid anything, read the story again.

      “A total of £23 million of public money – £15 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) and £8 million from the council – was approved to assist the developer and facilitate the building of a new sports centre and 565 homes on the seafront site.”

      APPROVED, not PAID to.

  6. fed-up with Brighton politics Reply

    If I were a trustee of the relevant council pension fund, especially an employee trustee, I would be very wary indeed about getting involved in this. Being a trustee is an onerous task, with significant personal implications for the trustees if they get it wrong, and trustees have very specific responsibilities concerning investments. Legal & General are a proper commercial entity and probably have rather different responsibilities and priorities and are able to take a hit if it goes pear-shaped, but if their proposed investment project is sound, then fine. However, given the long track record to date re the King Alfred project, and its apparent non-viability to commercial investors (i.e. first ING and then Crest Nicholson), then I would question whether it is an appropriate investment for a public sector defined benefit pension scheme and, if I were a member of the scheme, I would have major concerns. You know, commercial entities have pulled out of this on the grounds of costs versus potential returns and the whole saga has been going on for a decade or more, so I would think you have to question the viability of any major project on the site which has been proposed to date. As a trustee, and I have been one and have also been closely involved with trustees of a major defined benefit pension scheme, the property investment department of that scheme would not have touched this project with a bargepole. Pension scheme investment is not about bailing out a local project, unless there are very sound investment reasons for the benefit of scheme members for doing so, but seeking an investment that produces the best possible returns for the scheme concerned. The bottom line is that such a project not only has to justify the investment, but should be demonstrably capable of producing the desired returns for the pension fund.

    None of that is to say that Rolivan’s suggestion is not a goer, but it is not by any means as simple as saying that the pension fund could invest. It’s the council itself that needs to come up with a deliverable plan for the site, although, given the I360 fiasco, which has left the taxpayers on the hook for many millions, I would question their ability to do that successfully.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      I thought the Council’s pensions were part of East Sussex?

  7. fed-up with Brighton politics Reply

    They are part of the East Sussex Scheme, yes, but I can’t see any pension scheme at all thinking it would be a good idea to get involved in something like the King Alfred development – not as was envisaged in the Crest Nicholson proposal anyway -, simply because it doesn’t seem to be viable for a developer.

    Is the Nick Lomax design online anywhere?

    • Rolivan Reply

      It was just an idea I had not part of ant proposal, also it could be built at cost instead of the 20 to 40 million profit that a develkper would want.The revenue would come from rent which I am sure would be adequate for a pension fund. Councils have to start thinking about raising their own income streams.

      • Christopher Hawtree Reply

        That is true. The “preferred bidder” set-up has proved useless with the King Alfred.

    • saveHOVE Reply

      Look for images in argus archive. It was a lous flashy shiny metal & glass number – just as intrusive.

      BHCC requires over 400 dwellings and a leisure centre as minimum forcthat site and THAT IS THE PROBLEM.

  8. Cheeky Reply

    Can we just have a decent swimming pool/Gym please. Is that too much to ask?

  9. Sarah Reply

    Why can’t the council get a public works loan and develop ii themselves, could provide mixed tenure which would facilitate cross subsidy, the rents would more than pay back the loan……maybe BHCLT might come up with a plan

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