More than 300 jobs are to be created in a £5.5 million hotel and office deal in the heart of Brighton.

Government cash holds the key to the transformation of Block J, the last piece of the city’s New England Quarter to be developed.

Coast to Capital, the Local Enterprise Partnership for West Sussex, Croydon, Brighton and Hove, Lewes and the Gatwick Diamond, has backed the plan to develop the derelict land near Brighton Station.

Brighton and Hove City Council approved £20 million development plans drawn up by property developer Square Bay for the site in the autumn.

They include a 94-bedroom four-star hotel, which is to be operated by the Indigo brand, and 28,000 square feet of office space. The hotel will employ 100 people and 200 people will be employed in the offices.

Last week Square Bay sold the land to Roquebrook, whose bosses were introduced to Coast to Capital officials by the council.

Managing director Simon Blakebrough said: “We are very excited. Coast to Capital has helped us out with funding in a difficult economic climate when backing for office projects in particular is very hard to obtain.”

Growing Places Fund

Block J was part of the city’s railway goods yard until the 1970s. It is the last piece of the New England Quarter Masterplan which was started in 2001 when the area was divided into 15 blocks for regeneration.

This is the first investment that has used money from the Government’s Growing Places Fund.

Coast to Capital has £23 million of Government funding and expects to announce further loans to businesses soon.

Tony Mernagh, the executive director at Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said the site was ideal for the development.

Centre of innovation

He said: “We have got the growth, we have the creativity, we have the ideas but we lack the space, so this is great news.

"The University of Sussex has shown interest in developing an innovation centre at the site which would bring it further into the city and lead to commercial spin offs.”

Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “This is great news. It shows support for the city and is a testament to the partnership between the council, the developer, Coast to Capital and the University of Sussex.”

Tim Wates, the vice chairman of Coast to Capital, said: “This project is typical of those in which we would like to invest.

Satellite site

"We are looking for both the private and public sector to come forward with innovative projects that will provide employment in our area.”

Mike Heard, the executive director of Sussex Innovation Centre, confirmed the centre was in advanced discussions about using the hotel development as a satellite to its Falmer site.

He added: “The original centre was a joint venture between the local authorities and the university.

“Another extension of this venture shows the great commitment to the future economic development of the city.”

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