A cutting-edge business centre for start-up firms could form the centrepiece of a multi-million-pound redevelopment of Brighton's Preston Barracks.

After years sitting empty, developers are moving forward with plans to transform the old barracks in Lewes Road.

Working with the University of Brighton, the Cathedral Group is now in talks to buy the 2.2-hectare site from Brighton and Hove City Council.

In return, it will create a Growth Centre for newly formed hi-tech manufacturing firms. Detailed projections claim it will provide 740 new jobs over a ten-year period.

The development of the wider area, including the university’s Watts and Cockcroft buildings, will lead to the creation of 350 homes alongside 1,288 student flats and 515 car parking spaces.

Richard Upton, chief executive of Cathedral Group, which is also leading separate £100 million plans for Circus Street, Brighton, said: “Brighton is one of the most forward-thinking cities in the UK.

“Our proposals to build a new community at this crucial northern gateway to the city where the University of Brighton already has a thriving campus, will deliver an opportunity to add significantly to Brighton and Hove’s ability to attract the best students, the best hi-growth companies and the best international investment in the world.”

Preston Barracks was built in 1793 amid fears Napoleon might invade England. But, after a period of decline, it has sat empty for more than 20 years.

The council has been in talks with the University of Brighton about redeveloping the area since 2009.

The latest scheme centres on the Central Research Laboratory to support new hi-tech manufacturing start-up companies as part of wider plans to create a “magnet for innovation” in the academic corridor.

Tomorrow, councillors are set to agree that “a financially viable solution is in reach” and push ahead with bringing the plans to a reality.

Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “Preston Barracks is a really significant site for the city. It has enormous potential in terms of research, employment, redevelopment and new homes. It will not only help business start ups get off the ground but also provide the support they need to flourish.”

Professor Julian Crampton, vice-chancellor of the University of Brighton, said: “This is a very exciting proposal for the city and for the University of Brighton – one which will create an attractive location which generates jobs and economic benefit to the city, and will alleviate pressure on the private housing market.”