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Public would prefer pool and sports centre to remain at King Alfred site – Brighton and Hove News

Public would prefer pool and sports centre to remain at King Alfred site – Brighton and Hove News

The King Alfred site was the popular choice for a new swimming pool and leisure centre – rather than land south of West Hove’s Sainsbury’s supermarket.

More than 3,600 people responded to a consultation on plans to build a new swimming pool and leisure centre serving the Hove and Portslade area.

Brighton and Hove City Council said it was fully in favour of building a new building on the existing site.

If – as expected – the council’s cabinet agrees to a set of proposals next week, the new pool and sports centre could be open to the public in less than four years.

The cabinet is being asked to agree to spend up to £47m on building a replacement for the King Alfred site at the Kingsway site on Hove seafront.

The Labour cabinet is being asked to approve the spending as part of Brighton and Hove City Council’s medium-term capital investment programme, funded through government grants, property sales and borrowing.

Cabinet members are also being asked to approve a budget of £2.7m for the planning application process – out of the total £47m – at a meeting at Hove Town Hall on Thursday 18 July.

The next stage of the project would be to appoint a professional team, including a lead architect, to begin the design work.

Documents published ahead of the meeting state the minimum cost of refurbishing the 1930s King Alfred building and its 1980s extension would be £14 million.

This work would include asbestos removal, concrete repairs, foundation reinforcement and roof renovation.

But if the cabinet had opted for land south of the West Hove Sainsbury’s, on Old Shoreham Road, the council would have had to overcome other hurdles, including a restrictive covenant.

The preferred option would involve building a “stacked design” on part of the site, with underground parking, and the remainder of the site sold for housing.

An alternative to the £47m project – a low-rise leisure centre with surface parking – would potentially cost £39m.

The cabinet is not being asked to choose between the low-rise or stacked design in the existing location at this time.

A redevelopment would face practical problems. The current sports halls, built over the “larger” and “smaller” pools from the 1930s, do not meet the standards of Sport England or the national governing body.

The more recently constructed leisure pool and the main 25-meter pool should have different water temperatures but share the same supply and a common filtration system.

The main pool also has only six lanes instead of eight, limiting its use to competitive swimming. And the gym space, in the former café site, was not built for that purpose.

The report said: “The need to replace the King Alfred with a new facility has been recognised for over 30 years.

“There have been three previous attempts to deliver a new facility, with the last project, undertaken with Crest Nicholson, stalled in 2019.”

The report stated that lessons learned from the failure of the previous project highlighted the importance of

  • prioritizing financial viability and practical delivery
  • keeping control of the project
  • keeping the delivery of the leisure centre separate from any existing on-site residential development
  • having a realistic view of what development is expected to deliver

The public consultation generated 3,679 responses and a further 128 emails from regular users interested in maintaining the facilities at the current waterfront location.

People living near the other site under consideration – the green space south of Sainsbury’s currently used by Portslade Cricket Club – were concerned about the possibility of extra traffic and parking problems.

Cabinet documents said that in one measure, 70 per cent of respondents were in favour of the existing site, while a “sentiment analysis” found that 60 per cent were in favour of the existing site and 14 per cent were in favour of the Old Shoreham Road site.

The former main swimming pool at King Alfred Leisure Centre

Protesters against the King Alfred redevelopment are concerned that hundreds of homes could be built on the site, with previous proposals including between 400 and 700 apartments.

The King Alfred Community Consultation Group has asked the council to extend the current consultation period.

The group’s representative, Carol Wilson, said: “While the expected decision to retain the seafront leisure centre is excellent news for Benfield Valley, we are deeply concerned about the planned demolition of the King Alfred Leisure Centre and the proposed high-density housing development, which includes only a token leisure facility alongside it.

“We will propose an alternative vision: a comprehensive renovation and expansion of the existing complex.

“This plan would bring to Brighton and Hove a long-awaited state-of-the-art, multi-use sports and leisure facility, establishing our city as a premier destination for sporting excellence.”

The cabinet is due to meet at 4.30pm on Thursday 18 July at Hove Town Hall. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.