The latest £228 million scheme to build a new leisure centre and hundreds of flats on the King Alfred site on Hove seafront has been formally ended.
There were suggestions that Brighton and Hove City Council could forgo a £15 million government grant towards the cost of providing low-cost homes for local people there.
This was disputed by a senior official this afternoon (Thursday 10 October).
The decision to end the project was made by the council’s Policy and Resources Committee despite an impassioned plea by Hove businessman Rob Starr who runs the Starr Trust.
The charitable trust – in partnership with housebuilder Crest Nicholson – was chosen as the council’s development partner for the scheme almost four years ago.
But Crest – regarded by the council as the lead partner – had concerns about the financial viability of the project. The company pulled out of the deal in August.
Mr Starr said that he was prepared to push ahead with the project and brought Legal and General on board.
L&G, which has offices in Hove, is already working on a build to rent scheme with the council in Brighton.
Mr Starr asked the committee: “Do you want the King Alfred to be developed or not?
“Do you want to throw away a £15 million government grant?”
The committee was told that the current King Alfred leisure centre lost the council £1 million year and that it would also lose out on council tax and business rates receipts the longer the site was left undeveloped.
The council said that its legal advice was that it would be breaking procurement law if it went ahead with the Starr Trust and L&G.
It would be open to challenge by any number of businesses from elsewhere in Britain and across the European Union.
Mr Starr said that his legal advice was that it was possible to proceed, with a standstill period to give other potential rivals time to show their hand.
Several councillors said that they were sorry that Mr Starr was understandably disappointed and Crest Nicholson was criticised.
But the end of the current scheme meant that the council could possibly look at the sport and housing aims and whether it was better to deliver them on more than one site.
Labour and the Greens may look at more of the work being carried out by the council itself rather than by a developer.
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