After seven or eight years of sitting on a shelf, the plans to expand Churchill Square shopping centre down towards the sea and build a new Brighton Centre have resurfaced with a slight twist.
The original idea was for the owners of Churchill Square - Standard Life - to take possession of the Brighton Centre to accommodate the expansion of the mall and then contribute £50m to the £100m costs of a new, smaller conference centre on Kingswest, currently the site of the Odeon and Prism nightclub.
The balance was going to be provided by council borrowing [£32m] and the now defunct regional development agency SEEDA [£18m]. The plans were stymied in 2008 when the then Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform [BERR], not convinced by the business case, said SEEDA couldn’t lend the money [see earlier story
]. The setback was compounded by the subsequent recession and decline in consumer spending which made Standard Life think twice about spending £50m to procure a site worth about £11m even though Churchill Square was [and probably still is] the flagship mall in their retail portfolio.
The new £450m plans still entail an expansion of Churchill Square but a new 10,000 capacity conference centre would be located at the council-owned Black Rock site just west of Brighton Marina. A cross party council working group has been engaged with Standard Life for some time and preliminary estimates suggest that the plans could generate up to 2,000 new jobs and provide hundreds of new homes in a tall-tower apartment block on the Kingswest site.
ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP COMMENT
It will cost Standard Life several million pounds to submit a planning application for one of the most ambitious [and probably controversial] plans in the last decade. Consequently they are going to want to be sure that it has the support of all parties before they open their wallet.
Black Rock isn't the ideal site for a conference venue and success will hinge on improving its connection to the city centre which, with its fantastic leisure and hospitality offer, has always been part of the attraction for conference delegates. It will only be a matter of days before someone suggests that an improved Volks railway is the answer; it isn’t.
Getting 10,000 people the 4km between the city centre and Black Rock after a concert will require more than the Volks railway. But on a positive note it will require considerably less than transporting 22,000 people which was the capacity of the Ice Arena previously planned for Black Rock [see earlier story
The other area of controversy will be the residential tower block at the corner of Kings Road and West Street. If it is tall enough to cast a shadow over St Paul's Church, be seen from the National Park or disturb the chakra of anyone ambling along the prom, it will attract objections by the ream.
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