2 February 2018

Extra money needed to preserve seafront road

Councillors are to discuss investing extra money in the scheme to save Brighton’s seafront road and  to recreate the 1880s Shelter Hall as a seafront centrepiece.

The authority had originally been working to a budget of £10.6m.  So far £12.2m has been spent.  Now a new report recommends investing an extra £7m, for two key reasons:

  • To upgrade the quality of the Shelter Hall replacement building to make it more attractive to investors. It is likely to be a quality restaurant.
  • To cover the extra cost of complex engineering work needed so far to stabilise the ground, overcome underground obstacles and deal with historic structures in a worse state than expected.        

As well as costing more, the project’s complexity means it will take longer.  It had originally been expected to complete this summer. It is now likely to be autumn 2019.

The project originally started because surveying had shown the seafront road to be weak and in danger of eventual collapse. Strengthening work entailed demolishing the Shelter Hall so the opportunity was seized to improve it as a bigger economic asset for the seafront. 

A finance report to the policy, resources and growth committee on 8th February suggests mainly raising the cash from central government.  The total would comprise £4m of Department for Transport grants, £2m of borrowing and £1m from other council sources.

Lead member for environment, transport & sustainability, councillor Gill Mitchell said: “We’re trying to save a crucial road so there’s no avoiding these extra costs and timescale. The cost to the city of it eventually failing are incalculable – but certainly significantly more than £19m.  We want this project to deliver real, long-term benefits for the city both in terms of transport infrastructure, the local economy and the preservation of our seafront heritage. So the extra spending will be worth it in terms of very large returns to the seafront, its businesses and the wider city.”

So far the scheme has been mainly funded by a £9m government grant which can only be spent on this project. Council officials say at the time the bid was made in 2015 it was not possible fully to assess risk factors such as ground conditions, the full state of historic structures and uncharted underground services.

 Examples of factors which require extra funding include:

  • A huge engineering operation to stabilise the ground and structures – involving sinking dozens of metre-thick concrete piles up to 17 metres into the ground
  • Maintaining traffic flows on the A259 in order to preserve access to local businesses and avoid damage to the local economy caused by the works 
  • Improvements to the replacement Shelter Hall’s specification to boost its revenue-generation by increasing its floorspace with a larger building and mezzanine floor.  Following advice from Historic England and the council’s planning service there are additional costs arising from conservation and design improvements
  • Provision of larger public toilets
  • An historically faithful restoration of the Grade 2 listed kiosk above the Hall, which was much more rotten than anticipated
  • Other costs arising from things such as obstacles hidden underground – including three old sea walls – and the building and road structure being in a worse condition than could have been foreseen.  This has required extra work and complex engineering solutions.
  • Additional demands on mechanical and electrical services for the project. Examples include a beefed-up ventilation system for the premises and a new electricity sub-station.

Background to the Shelter Hall project

View the council's YouTube video on the complex project