A landmark deal between the Government, Brighton and Hove City Council and its surrounding districts was officially signed yesterday. Michael Davies reports.

It is billed as having the potential to bring millions of pounds of investment and create a new wave of creative and technology businesses in the area.

The City Deal was officially signed yesterday by councillors, ministers, local business leaders and university partners in what promises to be a significant development for business growth in the next few years.

Known collectively as “Greater Brighton”, the groups involved in the deal will work together to create as many as 8,500 new jobs in the new Greater Brighton region and bring in millions in investment.

This will include a £24 million redevelopment in New England House, which will act as a business hub for developing enterprises.

Cities Minister Greg Clark was joined by Brighton and Hove City Council leader Jason Kitcat and other community leaders to make the deal official after months of planning.

It is hoped the deal will The proposal was presented to the Government last year after the city council, surrounding district councils and Brighton and Sussex Universities collaborated to put together the best package to highlight how the investment could be used.

Having got the go-ahead, supporters of the deal are hoping that the £8.3 million in public sector investment will help to attract up to £173 million in private sector cash in the creative and technology industry.

The Greater Brighton area is one of 20 cities that was chosen in the second wave of the Government's City Deals.

Speaking after the signing, Coun Kitcat said: “It's a big relief. Other countries in Europe already have this new approach of the community working together like this and the UK is a bit behind. It's really great we've officially recognised the greater Brighton area as an economic area and that will now have the effect of us working together in partnership with other local authorities, businesses, and universities, all holding us together.”

In the short term it is believed the new plan will create 1,300 direct jobs in the creative and technology industry in New England House, which will be expanded and refurbished to handle the new influx of companies.

The building, which is owned by Brighton and Hove City Council, currently accommodates 96 businesses, mostly from the creative and digital industry, with 1,000 employees.

It has a waiting list of 67 companies waiting for space.

The £24.53 million investment, which will be split between the council, government and private businesses, will provide space for 2,300 jobs.

The deal will also allow digital companies to get access to faster broadband through the creation of a “digital exchange” which will allow small tech businesses to pool their resources and invest together to invest in shared broadband capacity enabling them to access higher speeds at a lower cost.

The exchange will be funded by reallocating £635,000 of Brighton's allocation within the Super Connected Cities programme.

Cities Minister Greg Clark, who along with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was one of the driving forces behind the deal in parliament, said he was thrilled at being able to put his signature on the plan and said it would give new businesses the best chance to get off the ground.

He said: “I was very keen to do a deal with Brighton because it is very clearly one of the areas in the country that can not only drive the growth and prosperity in the South East, but the whole of Britain and this deal is all about that.

“This deal was made in Brighton. They applied to the Government and we looked what we could do to help the city and the surrounding area grow as fast as possible. What they said was we've got creative and technology businesses flocking to Brighton and we want to be able to welcome them and encourage them and help them prosper. This building is getting full but it's an ideal place for a cluster and the idea for people to help each other, support each other and work as part of a larger group.

“It's very impressive how everyone has joined forces together so a Conservative minister had no difficulty at all working with people from different political parties and everyone got behind it and not just politically but in terms of the local authorities and different types of districts have worked together, the universities have worked together and I think it's at the stage when everyone's joined forced to make it happen.”

The Deputy PM added: “We're giving Brighton the freedom, power and tools to be really innovative and design whole new ways of building a stronger economy and fairer society. This City Deal puts power in the hands of local people who know best what skills are needed in the area to give it a real chance of changing the fortunes of thousands of people in and around Brighton.”

Conservative MP for Hove and Portslade, Mike Weatherley, who attended the signing and was one of the local members of parliament putting the case forward said he had been very confident the deal would go through for the city added: “It didn't once seem like it wasn't going to go through.”

As well as providing investment directly into Brighton and Hove the new plan will also see £165 million investment poured into surrounding areas with Newhaven and Shoreham planning clean technology and environmental technology growth centres to create thousands of new jobs.

The money will also go to improving flood defences to protect businesses in the wake of the storms this winter with £17.5 million to go towards a number of projects including at Newhaven and Shoreham Adur Tidal Walls and Shoreham Western Harbour Arm Extension.

And it wasn't just the councils and government that helped push the deal through.

Brighton and Sussex University, as well as Coast to Capital local enterprise partnership, were also involved in the deal which will now see each partner playing a lead role in promoting new tech and creative businesses through research and the creation of “business growth centres” which will give new businesses access to better support services, allowing them to operate in groups with other companies.

The University of Brighton's Vice Chancellor Professor Julian Crampton said: “The University of Brighton is happy to be an active partner in the City Deal. It will enable our expertise in research to be widely shared to benefit the local economy and create jobs for both our graduates and the workforce more generally. Universities like ours are the anchor to the fast moving businesses for which the city is becoming known.”

John Peel OBE, Chairman of Coast to Capital LEP, added: “This is excellent news for the people and businesses of the Greater Brighton area. The City Deal is likely to significantly increase confidence among those currently considering investment in the area and provide exceptional opportunities for future growth. It is a fine example of how partnerships between the public and private sectors can make a significant difference to the future prosperity of an area.”

One the cornerstones of the development deal that is set to push much of the new business growth is the FuseBox, which works out of New England House.

The project is already supporting developing businesses working out the building.

And according to their reaction to the deal signing, the future is looking good for Brighton businesses.

Bekah Palmer, from The Ideal Group of Companies, a social media management company, said: “This space has really helped us interact with each other and work, not only on our own, but in different groups. It's fantastic news. It's a great space and building. It's going to work both ways because people will see I'm available and I can help with social media for other companies and they can help us. It's a really good investment and will mean more companies will be in here.”

Alick Mighall from Miggle, a web development business, added: “It's important because it will raise exposure of the sector and the area it works in and it's important that the deal doesn't just benefit Brighton and Hove and will expand it into other areas.”

Now that the deal is signed it is hoped that the redevelopment of New England House will begin this month and be completed by October 2017.

The Digital Exchange will be completed by March next year.

What is the City Deal expected to deliver?

  • 1,300 jobs in the short term, rising to 8,500 jobs 
  • A £24.5 million investment in the flagship New England House with an extra 7,000m2 of floorspace for creative-tech businesses
  • £173 million of investment in the medium term, creating a network of Growth Centres across the City Region
  • Unlocking of sites to deliver up to 2,000 new homes over the medium term
  • An integrated support programme across the Greater Brighton and wider Coast to Capital LEP area

How will the new Greater Brighton City Deal be governed?

An economic board, comprising the Greater Brighton Economic Joint Committee and Greater Brighton Business Partnership, will be formed to provide strategic leadership across Greater Brighton. To support this, a Single Pot Investment Fund, a Greater Brighton Innovation Panel and a Greater Brighton Skills and Employment Group will be created to provide coordination across key policy areas.

Who are the members of the new City Deal

The initial Public Sector partners are:

The Private and Education Sector partners will be:

  • University of Brighton
  • University of Sussex
  • Further Education Representative
  • Brighton and Hove Economic partnership
  • Coastal West Sussex Partnership
  • Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership A
  • dur and Worthing Business Partnership