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Developer bins Haworth Tompkins’ King Alfred leisure centre, citing ‘uncertain times’


The developer behind Haworth Tompkins’ multi-million pound regeneration of the King Alfred site in Hove has pulled the plug on the project

Crest Nicholson announced it had taken the ‘difficult decision’ to shelve the seafront scheme, citing ‘uncertain times’.

Brighton and Hove City Council has worked on the scheme with the developer since 2016, when Crest Nicholson won a competition to develop the 1.8ha plot. The proposal included 560 homes and a £50 million leisure centre drawn up by Haworth Tompkins and sports specialists LA Architects.

But a year later the developer was asking the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to provide £10 million to bail out the project. And in 2018 it was reported that Brighton & Hove City Council had written to the developer asking for a firm commitment to the scheme. 

At the start of this year, as patience ran thin, the council gave Crest Nicholson a deadline of 30 March to commit to it or walk away. The developer said in the spring that it ‘remained keen to progress’ the proposals but required ‘further clarification’ from ministers over Brexit.

With political circumstances no clearer, Crest Nicholson interim chief executive Chris Tinker this week drew a line under the scheme. He said: ‘It is with disappointment that Crest Nicholson has taken the difficult decision to withdraw from the King Alfred development in Hove.

‘Crest has reluctantly come to the conclusion that the ambition of the scheme in these uncertain times is too great and that the project is simply unable to deliver the required social and physical outputs, given the related costs and values.

It has become a more complicated project than originally envisaged

‘The scheme has presented a series of challenges over the promotion period and while we would pay tribute to the council and its advisers in working collaboratively with our own team to overcome such obstacles, it has become a more complicated project than originally envisaged in terms of both planning and delivery.’

The developer said spiralling costs meant the scheme could not support any affordable housing.

Brighton & Hove City Council leader Nancy Platts expressed ‘huge disappointment’ at the developer’s decision. She said: ‘We appreciate the difficulties and complexities of the project and appreciate too the efforts made by Crest Nicholson, but the council makes no apologies for pressing the developer to deliver the scheme it selected in 2016.

‘Finding a viable alternative will be our upmost priority and this will include consulting with the local community, who have been so patiently awaiting this development.’

The council said it had begun exploring alternative delivery options and would update its Policy and Resources Committee in the autumn.

But Haworth Tompkins refused to concede defeat on its proposals, saying it was in talks with Brighton youth charity Starr Trust about keeping the plans alive.

Director Toby Johnson said: ’Having worked with Crest Nicholson on the regeneration of the King Alfred Site since 2015, we are sorry that it has decided to withdraw from the development.

’However, we are in discussion with Crest Nicholson’s partner, the Starr Trust, who remain fully committed to delivering the scheme. We are willing to work with them, Brighton and Hove City Council and the other stakeholders to help realise this important project.’

A previous proposal for the site by Frank Gehry – dubbed Tin Can Alley on account of its crumpled metallic towers design (below) – was shelved in 2008 almost five years after the US architect won the original competition.

gehry king alfred

gehry king alfred 


Readers' comments (3)

  • According to the report Frank Gehry's scheme won the competition 2003, so the B&H Council have been toying with this development for 16 years.
    Maybe they have something wrong, like over complex brief, over-development, relying on a developer lead process.

    Chop the site into smaller blocks, sell some for housing, and with the proceeds build the leisure facilities. Or is that against EU rules…

    No, they can do this in for example Nantes, a seaside town of a different sort, briefs set by the local authority, developers build. Result high to very high quality housing and facilities.

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  • Chris Roche

    It is hardly surprising we have a housing shortage crisis in this country.
    I had a flat overlooking this sight when the news broke of Frank Gehry's original scheme and fearing blight for up to 5 years I bailed out and sold.
    My daughter was 3 at the time and is now approaching 21 and at Uni. What a tragic waste of resource, time, and energy whichever side you might be on. Something has to change!

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  • Why was Gehry's scheme 'shelved'? - at least it had some character.

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