13 October 2014

Development partner sought for King Alfred leisure centre site

Brighton & Hove City Council is seeking a developer to create a new high-quality leisure facility to replace Hove’s King Alfred Leisure Centre.

Alongside could be a residential development of around 400 homes, subject to planning permission.  These would be required to meet the capital cost of the leisure centre - as well as addressing the city’s acute housing shortage.

Developers are being alerted to the development opportunity with a notice to the industry issued this week and a trade press advert on Saturday October 11.

The council says a new leisure centre is essential to meet modern standards and public expectations.  A modern, new facility is also likely to attract more users, thereby helping to meet running costs.  The current building, dating from the 1930s, is expensive to run at a time when the council is facing its biggest-ever funding cuts – needing to save over £100m in the next five years.

A council report in July 2013 estimated a new leisure centre would cost around £40m.  The authority points out councils have nothing like the available funds, so a partnership with the private sector is the only way such a scheme could be delivered.

A cross-party project board was set up to develop the brief and oversee the scheme. Chair of the board and the council’s culture committee, Cllr Geoffrey Bowden said:  “Staff are doing a brilliant job at the current leisure centre – it’s been much improved but with mounting maintenance costs, it really needs replacing with an up-to-date facility.  

“We’re certain that a new leisure centre would be much more popular, be easier to maintain and so cost taxpayers a lot less to run.  There is nowhere near enough council money to buy a leisure centre outright, so an enabling development and a private partner is the only option.  But we need to make sure it’s an appropriate development for the site. Local people will be consulted to make sure their views are accommodated as part of the process.”

Last year the council’s policy and resources committee agreed the mix of facilities should include a swimming pool, plus teaching and children’s pools, a six-badminton-court hall, a bowls rink, 70-piece gym, workout studio and 180 parking spaces.  Last November personnel representing 29 teams attended a developers’ day with the council to discuss possibilities for the site.

A tendering notice alerting developers has been issued and is due to appear in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) – the usual place councils advertise tenders for major projects, under European rules.  Another appeared in the Estates Gazette, the UK’s main property sector journal, on Saturday October 11.

Interested companies are invited to fill in pre-qualification questionnaire. Access to both this and supporting information can be requested via KALC@deloitte.co.uk or calling 0207 007 6607.  Deadline for submissions is Monday November 10.

Up to five firms will then be invited for more talks to develop initial proposals for the new leisure centre, leading to a reduced shortlist of companies being invited to submit final tenders in Spring 2015. A decision on a preferred developer is expected to be made during Summer 2015.

Members of the cross-party King Alfred project board are Cllr Bowden (chair), Cllr Andrew Wealls, Cllr Warren Morgan and Tony Mernagh, executive director of Brighton & Hove’s Economic Partnership.