A £400m property scheme hangs in the balance after the Brighton & Hove City Council and a developer clashed over Brexit uncertainty.
Developer Crest Nicholson submitted a letter to Brighton & Hove hours before councillors were due to vote on the final deal, insisting that “greater clarity on the form and timing of Brexit” was needed for the project to be feasible.
The council responded by giving the developer an ultimatum – to enter a development agreement by 30 March or risk losing the project.
The Hove seafront scheme proposes replacing the 1930s King Alfred leisure centre with a new sports centre and over 500 new homes. Last year the Government awarded £15.2m of housing infrastructure funding to plug a financial ‘viability gap’ in the project.
The Crest Nicholson letter cites “certain scenarios” in leaving the EU that could “yet undermine the project’s feasibility.”
It continues: “The current deadlock is most unhelpful and does not provide the basis for major investment decisions in the interim.”
Scott Black, Crest Nicholson’s managing director, pledges that “as soon as we have greater certainty…then we will enter into the development agreement and commit the team and resources required”.
However, the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee responded by voting unanimously to give Crest Nicholson a final deadline of 30 March with the hope that this can be completed by the end of January. If the original deadline is not met the council said it will “begin to explore other options”.
Brighton & Hove leader Daniel Yates (Lab) said that the council was left with no other choice.
“Whilst we recognise and have sympathy with the uncertainty that Brexit brings and how challenging this is for developers who are making investment decisions, we have to see progress on the delivery of a new leisure centre complex,” he said. “The council and the people of Brighton & Hove must have serious and absolute commitment to this scheme.”
The council’s Green Party group criticised the council’s lack of preparation for Brexit.
Phélim Mac Cafferty, the group’s spokesperson and member of the council’s policy, resources and growth committee, said: “Greens have repeatedly pushed for answers on the impact of Brexit on Brighton and Hove.”
Mr Mac Cafferty added: “Now we’re beginning to see the real effect of Brexit on our city, and already it means developers are slamming the brakes on major development, critical housing projects are being put on ice, and new jobs and opportunities are being put on hold.”