Leading players in the tourism sector have expressed concern that the delivery of a new conference centre is moving at a glacial pace while Brighton & Hove loses out to competing locations.
The issue came to head when Andrew Coggins - the manager of the Grand de Vere Hotel - contributed an article to the back page of the Argus newspaper’s highly regarded business section last Tuesday. In it he lamented the absence of firm information about the progress of plans to replace the Centre.
Because organisers of major conferences book several years ahead Andrew Coggins – who sits on the Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership – stressed the importance of a firm date for the opening of a new purpose built, state-of-the-art conference venue. He suggested that investment decisions in the sector were being impeded by a lack of information citing his own hotel’s £1m refit as an example.
The local authority’s cautious approach to what is, without doubt, in economic terms the single most important construction project in the city is understandable and in fact much work has been done behind the scenes. After a public consultation exercise supplementary planning guidance has been produced (see earlier stories in the knowledgebase or enter SPG22 into the search engine) and a masterplan for the 12.6 hectare site, which includes much more than just the Brighton Centre, is in progress. The opportunity exists to not only deliver a new conference centre but also to expand the city centre’s Churchill Square retail offer. The conference centre alone would cost in the region of £150m to build and would have to be done in conjunction with a private sector partner.
The city council anticipates being able to release much more information in early spring 2006.
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