One of Brighton’s biggest building projects remains on track despite pandemic challenge

The £300 million Preston Barracks project is still on schedule despite the challenges thrown up by the coronavirus pandemic, Brighton University vice chancellor Debra Humphris said today.

Debra Humphris

The project – one of the biggest schemes under way in Brighton and Hove – is transforming Lewes Road with homes, student flats, university buildings, offices and a new health centre.

It appears to have remained relatively unscathed by coronavirus cases, workers having to self-isolate and the rules around social distancing which have hampered a number of building projects.

Professor Humphris said: “In the face of the pandemic, our academic building – to be named Elm House – is on track. So are our student residences.

“There is great progress with the primary care facility which will add real value for everybody.

“In the face of all of this, I am amazed and delighted that out construction colleagues are making really good progress.”

Professor Humphris was speaking today (Thursday 26 January) at a virtual meeting of the Greater Brighton Economic Board, which brings together business, council and education leaders.

The economic board’s One Public Estate programme awarded £45,000 towards the costs of including new premises for two local doctors’ surgeries as part of the scheme.

A report to the board said: “The project will secure the delivery of a new primary healthcare centre as part of the wider regeneration scheme to meet the future healthcare needs of the area where population growth is anticipated to be the highest of any area of the city.

“Redevelopment of Preston Barracks and the surrounding areas will create major demand for additional health services from general practice, which are already extremely stretched in meeting local need and that will struggle to be met from current practices in their existing premises.

“The area earmarked for the proposed primary healthcare centre is at ground floor level of (two) residential blocks.”

The “primary care centre” should be built by June next year although it will then be fitted out over six to eight months and is due to open to patients in 2023.

Assura, a real estate investment trust specialising in health care properties, has bought the lease for the primary care centre from developer U+I.

The two GP surgeries will have 13 consulting and treatment rooms between them, supported by an onsite pharmacy.

The surgeries are expected to serve more than 11,000 patients initially, with the number expected to rise to 13,000 and possibly as many as 16,000 when the wider is fully occupied.

The Plus X “innovation hub” was completed last year along with more than 500 student bedsits.

The Preston Barracks scheme, which is being built on the site of an old Army base, also includes 369 homes as well as offices and shops.

The scheme is a collaboration between Brighton University, Brighton and Hove City Council and developer U+I and is expected to create more than 1,500 jobs.

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