THE developer behind the multi-million pound King Alfred project has pulled out.

Crest Nicholson has announced its £400 million plans for the city council-owned land on Hove seafront are no longer going ahead.

A £50 million sports facility was due to be built, along with hundreds of homes, some of which were to be affordable.

Last year, Brighton and Hove City Council dropped its affordable housing requirement to 20 per cent in an effort to appease Crest Nicholson

The council’s policy is 40 per cent.

In January, the developer said it would not sign a deal with the council until there was greater certainty over Brexit.

Now, the company says it can not afford to include any cheaper housing, stating “uncertainty has been increasing”.

It said the “ambition of the scheme in these uncertain times is too great” and it will no longer be going ahead with plans.

City council leader Nancy Platts said the news was “hugely disappointing” but made “no apologies” for pushing for the affordable housing.

Furious Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth, who has been critical of the council’s handling of the project, said it was never viable and is now calling for resignations.

Chris Tinker, interim chief executive of Crest Nicholson, said: “It is with disappointment that Crest Nicholson has taken the difficult decision to withdraw from the King Alfred development in Hove.

“Crest has worked with the council, The Starr Trust and other stakeholders for over three years with a view to creating a high-quality viable and deliverable scheme but has reluctantly come to the conclusion that the ambition of the scheme in these uncertain times is too great and that the project is simply unable to deliver the required social and physical outputs given the related costs and values.

“The scheme has presented a series of challenges over the promotion period and whilst we would pay tribute to the council and its advisers in working collaboratively with our own team to overcome such obstacles, it has become a more complicated project than originally envisaged in terms of both planning and delivery.

“It is now increasingly apparent that the growing cost of delivering the scheme, including the council’s new £50 million leisure centre, at a time when uncertainty has been increasing and values falling, means that the project is no longer able to support the provision of any affordable housing and remain viable.

“This position, despite significant funding pledges from both the council and Homes England, is unlikely to change and the board has therefore reluctantly decided that it is not willing to promote and deliver a development of this scale and nature.”

The scheme would have involved knocking down the ageing leisure centre and building new, modern sports facilities alongside 560 flats.

The scheme’s failure comes despite a total of £23 million of public money – £15 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) and £8 million from the council – being approved to assist the developer.

Cllr Platts said: “I’d like to thank everyone who has tried so hard for so long to make this project a success.

“Of course we are hugely disappointed that Crest Nicholson has confirmed it won’t be progressing the redevelopment of the King Alfred site.

“We’ve worked closely with their team to find a financially viable scheme to deliver a new public sports and leisure facility and provide affordable housing.

“We appreciate the difficulties and complexities of the project, and appreciate too the efforts made by Crest Nicholson, but the council makes no apologies for pressing the developer to deliver the scheme it selected in 2016.

“Finding a viable alternative will be our utmost priority and this will include consulting with the local community who have been so patiently awaiting this development.

“Our objective has always been to provide a new sports and leisure centre as well as much needed affordable housing for Hove. We will continue to explore all ways possible to get the most we can from the site so it is of maximum benefit to local people”

The council said it was beginning to explore “alternative delivery options”.

Wish Ward representative Cllr Nemeth, who has been a vocal critic of the successive administrations’ handling of the scheme, has spoken about a “catalogue of failures”.

He said: “I predicted exactly that this would happen over two years ago. I don’t believe that the scheme ever added up financially but only now has the true extent of the unviability become apparent.

“By allowing Crest Nicholson to keep the city on the line for so long, without taking any sort of deposit or fee, the city has lost millions.

“There should be resignations over this. It’s a sad day for Hove.”

In October last year, The Argus reported the development hung in the balance after the building firm missed its “final” deadline to commit to the project.

The “final deadline” was already extended by two years. 

At the time, Cllr Nemeth said the council had wasted “something in the region of £4 million”.

Speaking tonight he said: “Not a single administration councillor has taken charge of what is ultimately Hove’s largest ever single-site development project.

“They were arguing amongst themselves over who should be driving it.

“Ultimately, nobody took any sort of lead at the critical moments so it failed.”