20 April 2016

World class conference and events venue moves a step closer

An agreement could soon be signed on Brighton’s vital Waterfront project to deliver a new arena and convention centre next to the city’s marina.

Councillors are expected to authorise officers to conclude a deal in the next two months with Standard Life Investments (SLI) – owners of Churchill Square Shopping Centre and the adjacent Kingswest cinema complex.  It would enable the council to build the new venue and Standard Life Investments to expand Churchill Square Shopping Centre.

A meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee on April 28 is also expected to authorise officers to find an operator to run the 10,000-seat arena and conference centre on the Black Rock site, referred to as Waterfront East.  It is hoped to appoint in early 2017.

The plan would also see Churchill Square extended to the seafront in a significant enhancement of the city’s shopping offer – referred to as Waterfront Central. 

The Waterfront project involves the city council selling the Brighton Centre site to Standard Life Investments and using the money from the sale to part-fund the new venue. 

Remaining funds for the delivery of the venue would come from rent paid by the operators, plus new income streams such as additional business rates generated at Churchill Square.

Following two years of exploratory work, the forthcoming agreement would formalise the council and Standard Life Investments working together to produce designs for both sites.  These would be brought back for in-principle agreement by the authority in around 12 months.  Extensive consultation with communities, businesses and interest groups is a vital part of the programme and expected to start shortly. 

Once the partners have agreed on a final scheme, a planning application will be prepared. Current estimates are that this will take place during 2018. 

The completed developments, worth an estimated £540m, are expected to create 2,000 jobs and boost spending in the city by £150m annually.  They would earn an extra £4.6m a year for the public purse – seen as crucial in an era of reductions to council funding.

Committee chair and council leader Warren Morgan said:  “There’s a long way to go but this is very significant progress. 

“The new venue is vital for the city, to ensure we can continue to compete with the bigger venues for the  large conferences and major act tours.  Regenerating the seafront east of the Palace Pier is a priority for us, including the closed-off Madeira Terraces.  This development at Black Rock will help to unlock more investment along Madeira Drive.  The retail scheme also gives us a way to hugely improve the seafront and public spaces around the current Brighton Centre and West Street.  It better links the city with the seafront and would give us a shopping offer of regional importance.”

Stay up to date with project developments at www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/waterfront


The processes for designing both the Churchill Square and Black Rock elements will be announced in due course.  However this will not involve the ‘competitive dialogue’ process used recently for the King Alfred leisure centre, which required confidentiality before announcing a winning bidder.  This is because the council is not going to the open market seeking private funding from competing bidders.  Funding has already been largely established, as described above.

The Brighton Conference Centre will continue to remain open for the foreseeable future. Final decisions on closure and relocation will be made after a planning approval is received. Staff at the conference centre will continue to be kept informed as the project progresses.