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King Alfred development - Background
|An artist's impression of the proposed development|
In 1999 it looked like Brighton and Hove Council had found a solution to the problem of what to do with the ailing King Alfred Leisure Centre on Hove's seafront.
Developers CityGrove, wanted to redevelop the site into a leisure centre incorporating a new sports centre, cinema, casino, restaurants and a nightclub.
But the casino operators pulled out and CityGrove's revised plan for a reduced-sized development on part of the site was rejected. The council said they couldn't allow the revised plan because it did not cover the cost of much-needed new sports facilities.
The re-development of the site was put back out to tender; the brief asked for a modern sports centre, costing between £25 million and £30 million, funded by 400 flats.
After considering various developers' proposals, in July 2003 Brighton and Hove City Council chose Karis, with its partner ING, as the preferred developers for the site.
From the start, Karis' plans have attracted national media interest because world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, who designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed the residential buildings.
If construction goes ahead, the King Alfred re-development could become Gehry's first major building project in England.
More recently publicity has also focussed on Brad Pitt. The Hollywood actor is an apprentice to Gehry and it is rumoured that Pitt will design a restaurant on the site and will possibly buy one of the development's penthouse apartments.
Despite all the media hype local residents' opinions are divided. Some residents, who have formed campaign groups such as Save Hove and Hova, are outraged about the designs, most notably because of the increase in the number of flats planned.
An original proposal stated that 590 were to be built but, in later plans submitted to the council, this total increased to 750. These flats will be contained within two large "crumpled" towers and protesters say that these two buildings will block sea-views for some home-owners.
Protesters have also voiced concerns about the buildings not being in keeping with the rest of the city's architecture.
For those residents that agree with Karis' and Gehry's plans a campaign group Hove Up was set up in October 2005. The group hopes to make supporters of the scheme, whom Karis believes are the in the majority, more visible.
In September 2005, the council's planning committee, acting as land-owner decided that Karis' most recent proposals met tough planning conditions. A formal planning applications has now been submitted which is likely to take the council's planning officers six months to study.
If planning consent is given, construction could begin in January 2007 with a completion date of January 2010 set for the sports centre and January 2012 for the whole development.
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