At the Society’s AGM on May 12th Simon Smith, our chairman, gave a precis of our earlier meeting with Nick Hibberd, the Director of Economy, Environment and Culture on Brighton and Hove Council. Mr Hibberd ranged widely over developments that will interest members, so here are further details, updated as necessary. Nothing much has changed, however.

What is happening on the seafront? Work is due to start “very soon” on the part of the seafront immediately east of the Aquarium, including the old Terraces restaurant site. The Sea Lanes project, principally an open-air swimming pool east of the Zip Wire, is now to be a 25-metre pool, rather than 50 metres. Work will not begin until summer 2019, but it is “certainly likely to happen”. On Madeira Drive/Marine Parade generally, NH wants to get rid of the fence along the promenade railing and at ground level, which “signals the area is closed”.

What about Black Rock? This is an extremely complex legal and commercial project because the two sites, Black Rock and the Brighton Centre, have to fit together. About £12m-15m in upfront funding from Standard Life is needed to bring the two projects to a starting point, but “We would not sell the Brighton Centre to Standard Life until we have a properly funded and planned centre at Black Rock. We would borrow money for Black Rock on the commercial stream from the extension of Churchill Square, but that cannot happen until the new development at Churchill Square is fully working.” Why does he place so much faith in retail? Because “Churchill Square is the most important shopping centre for Standard Life in the south-east after Brent Cross and, by extending Churchill Square, retail in Brighton will be secured for the future.”

No architects have yet been appointed to design Black Rock. Before that happens there has to be an Agreed Development Strategy, on which KTS and all affected residents would be consulted. Once architects are appointed, local residents will be consulted over the design.

Why move the Conference Centre to Black Rock at all? The Council admits that the city centre would be better, but it cannot get funding for a bigger centre in the middle of town – or for refurbishment of the present one, which is “on its knees”.

The centre at Black Rock would probably accommodate 8,000 people. Even with far fewer, speedy mass transit would be needed to and from Brighton station. No planning has been done for this, and there are as yet no feasible ideas.

The centre would belong to the Council, which hopes eventually to get around £1m a year from leasing it to other parties. But “without an acceptable and sustainable strategy, the project will not happen.”

What is going on at the Marina? The flats have sold well, mostly to families of Chinese students. Nothing is happening on the tower. They are not bothering to pump out the coffer dam, because it is so expensive.
Update: There is now a new majority shareholder, and new architects have been appointed. All fingers crossed.

On Madeira Terraces, NH admitted that the Council’s bid for £5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund would be “a challenge” to achieve. Update: He was right; it did not succeed. The Council says it will try again.

Alex Bruce’s generous legacy was also discussed at the AGM, and most people favoured spending at least some of it on Information Boards explaining the history of the Estate. The Committee has identified five possible sites, subject to planning consents and the consent of Kemp Town Enclosures, and we are researching designs for the boards.