16 July 2014

Preston Barracks and university redevelopment a step closer

The University of Brighton and developers Cathedral Group (Holdings) Ltd have exchanged contracts with Brighton & Hove City Council for the purchase and £150m redevelopment of the former Preston Barracks site in Lewes Road, Brighton.

The news follows the Government’s announcement on 7 July that it intends injecting £7.7m into the Barracks development as part of a £17.4m investment in University of Brighton research and buildings.

The partnership agreement will bring forward the purchase and comprehensive redevelopment of the existing council-owned site and adjacent University of Brighton land to deliver new employment space, new university academic buildings, student accommodation with 1,300 bedrooms, 350 quality new homes and 25,000 sq ft of retail space.

The agreement signed this week now means the scheme can be worked on in more detail. It will be concluded subject to planning permission and the partners meeting agreed conditions.

It means the council will sell the freehold of the Preston Barracks site to the university. The freehold will come with a lease agreed for Cathedral to develop the Barracks site which is part of a masterplan covering three sites – the Barracks, plus land owned by the university next door, the car park of the Watts building, and, on the opposite side of Lewes Road, the university’s Mithras House car park.

Preston Barracks itself would be the site for 350 housing units, 20 per cent affordable homes; 500 student bedrooms, a Central Research Laboratory (CRL), plus a health centre.

The Mithras House car park site would have a new academic building plus 552 student bedrooms and a small amount of retail and other uses to complement the university’s existing operations at its Moulsecoomb campus. The Watts Building car park has space for future academic expansion, plus a small amount of retail, and 264 student bedrooms.

It is estimated this employment-led regeneration scheme will create 740 new jobs over a 10-year period. Central to this ambition will be the 55,000 sq ft CRL, a business incubation centre and cutting-edge facility that will support new hi-tech and design-led manufacturing start-up companies and entrepreneurs.

The partners consider this as a major development that will create a new gateway to the city from the north, further enhancing the university’s position at the centre of the city’s economic life. The university and Cathedral have an established working relationship that dates back to 2006, and have worked closely, alongside Brighton & Hove City Council, on the development of another redevelopment proposal, the Circus Street project in Brighton city centre, adjacent to the university’s Grand Parade campus.

Cathedral Group and the University of Brighton are working with the award-winning architects Hawkins Brown and Studio Egret West, as well as Brighton-based designers and architects We Like Today, on generating ambitious and colourful designs to enhance the university campus and create a unique northern gateway to the city centre.

Professor Julian Crampton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Brighton, said: “The University of Brighton has worked closely with the City Council and Cathedral Group to create a comprehensive plan for the development of the whole of the Preston Barracks and adjacent land, owned by the University of Brighton.  The development incorporates a range of uses from residential accommodation and student residences, to space for a new university academic building and innovation space for the university and business to work closely together.

“This is a very exciting proposal for the city and for the University of Brighton – one which will create a permeable and attractive location which generates jobs and economic benefit to the city, and one which will alleviate pressure on the private housing market.”

Richard Upton, Chief Executive of Cathedral Group (Holdings) Ltd, said: “We are very proud to be starting work on our second major site in Brighton, one of the most forward thinking and creative cities in the UK. This is a major development project and will create a new gateway to the city from the north, further establishing the university at the centre of Brighton’s economic life.

“Working in partnership with the University of Brighton and Brighton & Hove City Council, we want this development to be at the forefront of attracting enterprising and hi-growth companies and increased international investment into Brighton and Hove.

“Work will now begin on site immediately to set the stage for the upcoming programme of spectacular events planned for the next two years.”

Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council Jason Kitcat said: “This is the result of a great deal of work between the three partners to develop one of our city’s biggest brownfield sites. The huge potential of this hard work between partners has been recognised by the Government through both the Greater Brighton City Deal and now the regional Growth Deal. The Preston Barracks development will deliver hundreds of good homes, while the student accommodation will ease pressures on family homes. Hundreds of jobs will be created and we will radically improve the appearance of this key gateway to the city while supporting Brighton University’s future success.”