THE multi-million pound sale of Brighton and Hove City Council’s former seafront offices has collapsed, The Argus can exclusively reveal.
Talks between the council and an unnamed partnership of nine firms over the sale of King’s House have broken down.
Council leaders took the decision to walk away from the exclusive talks after failing to overcome “a number of unresolvable issues”.
The grade II-listed property will be put back on the market in April to restart a process that has already taken three years.
Development experts said the council may have to look to compromise on the price tag or lower their demands on the scope of the housing scheme.
The eight-storey property will remain empty for a considerable time as the hunt for a purchaser resumes.
It was vacated by council staff moving into Hove Town Hall in October.
Funds from the sale are needed to cover the £11 million costs of refurbishing and expanding the town hall and a £6 million project bringing more council services online.
The selected consortium had bid well in excess of the £14 million asking price with a figure above £20 million anticipated from the eventual sale.
The authority had received almost 200 enquiries for the 100,000sqft offices though talks with a first selected bidder also collapsed.
It had been hoped the sale could be completed last autumn with the preferred bidder already selecting architects to draw up a residential scheme.
Ed Allison-Wright, of the Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said: “The council will need to take a breath to find the best way forward for taxpayers.
“That means they might need to change the brief to attract developers, which could mean allowing more development, higher densities or less affordable housing.
“It cannot just be about money, it seems they went for the most money this time and it hasn’t worked out, it has to be about the best total offer.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Because of a number of unresolvable issues with the prospective purchaser and with strong approaches from other parties, all three group leaders on Brighton and Hove City Council have decided not to proceed with the current offer on the table.
“Cushman & Wakefield the council’s property agent, has been instructed to remarket the property which will start in mid-April.
“The new marketing exercise will allow the sale to be quickly pushed forward bringing the building back into use and generating capital that can be used to fund vital council services.
“The delay in the sale will not affect capital investment plans for 2017/18.”