The Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has declined to allow the regional development agency - SEEDA - to contribute £18.5m towards the costs of redeveloping the Brighton Centre - the city’s ageing convention centre.
The £400m project included extending Churchill Square shopping centre down to the seafront and replacing the 30 year old 5,500 seater conference centre with a much smaller venue on the site of the current Kingswest on the corner of West Street.
The local authority owns the Brighton Centre and Standard life Investments own Churchill Square and the Kingswest site. In return for the transfer of the Brighton Centre to Standard Life’s ownership they would construct a £100m state-of-the-art international convention centre.
The project has a funding gap of £50m and the plan was for the Council to borrow £32m and the regional development agency (RDA) – the South east England Development Agency (SEEDA) – to contribute £18m.
However, any expenditure in excess of £10m from the RDA has to have approval from BERR, which has declined to sanction the investment.
BUSINESS FORUM COMMENT
The need for a new convention centre is without challenge either across the political spectrum of the local authority or from the business community. The Brighton Centre is 30 years old and competes poorly with the likes of ExCel and GMEX.
The delivery of this project – the largest the city has seen in recent times – was always going to be complex and difficult.
SEEDA’s contribution was never a done deal and although it is a setback it is likely to be nothing more than that. The prospect of an expanded Churchill Square, with the potential to double the city’s retail turnover, and a new convention centre that could contribute £3 billon to the local economy over the next 20 years is too great to give up on.
It is inconceivable that the sum required – less than 5% of the total – will scupper the whole deal but it might delay it for a few months.
Read related items on:
Tourism, entertainment and hospitality
Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform