THE man behind the winning King Alfred design has told The Argus he will use the project to grow his charity.

Rob Starr said redeveloping the Hove seafront site will allow his organisation to grow beyond its current remit in supporting young children and teenagers to pursue their sporting, education or artistic dreams.

In an exclusive interview with The Argus, The Starr Trust co-founder has revealed more details of the project and has explained his vision for the site which will include seafront arches that could be hired out by start-ups, community groups or businesses.

Mr Starr said a proposed multi-purpose hall with the potential to host dramatic performances as well as community meetings would be a reduced compromise on his original vision of a 400-seater theatre.

He also said he hoped to explore ways in which not-for-profit organisations, community groups and businesses could all be involved in the £400 million scheme.

The charity along with house builder Crest Nicholson were awarded the contract in January after beating a rival bid from French firm Bouygues in a three-year selection process.

As part of the winning bid for the site, 560 flats of up to 18 storeys in height will also be built as well as a £40 million leisure centre with a 25 metre eight-lane swimming pool, a sports hall with capacity for eight badminton courts and a 120-station gym.

The Starr Trust was set up in 2008 as a tribute to Mr Starr’s father Edward who died from bowel cancer aged just 61.

Since its inception it has given out hundreds of thousands of pounds to local children.

Mr Starr hopes that landing the King Alfred project will act as a catalyst for the charity to kick on and widen its impact.

He said: “My trustees are going to sit down now and talk about what we can do with the trust.

“Over the years it has been great supporting young people aged ten to 18 in the BN postcode but we’ve always wanted to expand.

“We think there is the ability within the charity to help more people.

“I’m constantly striving all the time and if there is anyone in need it would be wonderful if we can help.

“The King Alfred is a community site so I want to look at the work the Starr Trust does and expand it into new areas.

“I’m also looking at the areas of the development which would be suitable for not-for-profits, its very exciting.”

For more information on the charity visit


What does winning the King Alfred contract mean for the Starr Trust?

Rob Starr: When we started the charity up seven years ago we had no financial backing at all, I had to get a bank loan.

The danger of starting a charity is how vulnerable you are in those early years if you can’t get financial support from other people.

The running costs of the charity have been met over the years by my businesses and it is great that we can do that because it means that all the fundraising we do, we can give this money out.

But for the charity to continue doing what it does and to expand, we cannot rely on my businesses, we have to find a way of making it sustainable.

The only way to do that is for the charity to have its own base so that people can see that we are on a solid footing and so will be happy to support us.

The King Alfred does that and more, allowing the Starr Trust to run the community aspect of the site.

What will the community benefits to the King Alfred development involve?

The community aspect runs through the whole building and its open spaces.

What we have created is a lot of flexible and open space which can be used by the whole of the community.

We really hope to bring some life and energy to the area.

All the community rooms will be flexible spaces that haven’t been designated to a specific use at this moment, but we are having discussions with cultural and educational parties including The Dome, schools and colleges about what they want and what the public want in terms of local resources.

We will have a double-height foyer that opens out into the square and there will be a multi-purpose hall opening out into the square.

The main hall could be used for so many things; theatre, music, so much stuff which Brighton currently does not have space for.

That could mean a local community group who want to do a talk about something happening in the city, someone like The Dome looking to bring a community outreach programme or a London-based group who want to bring a show down here.

Festival, Fringe, Digital Festival, Artist Open Houses, they all need more space all the time.

We will have rooms that can be used for community meetings, enterprise hubs and facilities for start-ups.

There will be a number of arches, similar to what are currently being built along the seafront, which could be used by businesses or start-ups giving them a space to give them a chance to get off the ground. 

We have discussed with BACA about the possibility of helping out with great ideas from their enterprise scheme, students who may have developed a great business idea and have nowhere to test it outside of school.

The idea is that for some of the time, say about two-thirds of the time, the spaces would be available as rentable commercial space so that we can get income in.

That would allow us for the rest of the time to give back to the community and local groups by allowing them to use the space free of charge or for a nominal fee.

How else will the King Alfred help the Starr Trust to grow?

We started off as a small family-run charity and I think we have grown into one of the most respected in the city.

But we want to do much more than we currently can and support so many more youngsters.

We give out about 30 grants every year to about 30 children ranging from £200 to £5,000.

I have a funding meeting coming up this week and we have 18 applicants.

Every single one of them is very worthy but we will only be able to support six or seven.

It would be wonderful if we can get to the position where we say rather than just fund six or seven, let’s fund all 18.

At the moment having to say no to those applicants is the hardest part, its heart-breaking.

Our focus is on funding young people aged ten to 18 in the BN postcode.

We want to continue with that local aspect but we would like to increase our remit and go up to 25.

Some people have questioned how a small charity like the Starr Trust has become involved in such a large project as the King Alfred?

My dad gave me some great advice from when I was starting up my business from the end of my bed as a 20-year-old.

He said you need to know how to do everything in your business.

You don’t need to be the best at any of them but you need to know how to empty the bins, pick up the shovel.

You have to be able to understand what they do and then let them do what they do.

For the King Alfred project, I’m not a builder or a developer and when I started out I didn’t know how it was done.

I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along but at the start I had no experience of this.

If you look at Crest Nicholson’s work, they don’t build estates, they build villages, and most importantly they do it with great heart.

Wilmott Dixon this is just what they do while LA Architects have designed more leisure centres than any other architect in the area while Haworth Tompkins just think about how a city works.

Our team is amazing.

The Starr Trust may be small and inexperienced but we are learning quickly.


To submit a question to Rob Starr which he will answer in a piece in tomorrow's paper, write below in the comments or email before 1pm today.