11 October 2012…..The Policy and Resources Agenda today carried an item titled ‘Workstyles’ but buried within it were options for disposing of Kings House and Hove Town Hall to be looked into as part of space rationalization and money-hunting efforts in hard times. Perfect opportunity for saveHOVE to ask an important public question concerning the King Alfred.
For previous redevelopment proposals the council sought to retain ownership of the site, gain a new sports centre and then long-lease the rest of the site to its developer for their own profit. This is an ‘Enabling Development’ option. The Council has never been willing, or felt able, to just rebuild the sports centre for itself at public expense.
The notified question was: “The Council owns the King Alfred/RNR site in Hove nd I wonder if you can tell me if any consideration has been or is being given to selling the site?”
The question was not directly answered, only alluded to in saying that a Project Board had been set up, chaired by Cllr Geoffrey Bowden to look into its future, basically, from a number of standpoints. This encapsulates the answer briefly.
The supplementary question was: “Would the council consider borrowing or underwriting the sums needed to enable redevelopment of the King Alfred site in order to get a much-needed new public facility there, so that 400 or more units of enabling development – flats – would not also be required in order to make it financially viable?”
The reply to this was, essentially, “if a costed proposal was brought to the Project Board, then yes”. A fresh look at the site, in the light of changing priorities and legislation from central government may mean that if the right developer came along with a proposal that did not involve 400 flats in tall towers, that BHCC now has new ways of looking at this.
Within the next day or so the live webcast of the Policy and Resources meeting will be archived on the council website and this item, near the beginning, can be viewed from here where you can view and listen to the entire exchange. The questions and replies given will also appear in the Minutes of this meeting (for agreement at the next meeting). Reporting from the chamber, Frank le Duc uploaded a very fast report to Brighton and Hove News with more detail than I provide here.
So! Such frankness from the Chair was unexpected. But just as BHCC was prepared to underwrite the funding shortfall for the i360 viewing tower, so, it seems to saveHOVE, the council must be willing to do the same for King Alfred – a much, much more important redevelopment opportunity and a site needed for a public facility of some kind that serves rather than uses the city.