A BUSINESSMAN has said he will buy the King Alfred for £1 and develop it into an underground leisure centre with six apartment blocks above.

He will split any cash left over from the scheme with Brighton and Hove City Council.

Hugh Dennis, founder of not-for-profit developer Little Ships, has called for the council to reopen the bidding process for the leisure centre on Hove seafront so he could propose his idea.

The Hove resident originally tabled a bid as part of another developer team in 2014, eventually losing out to developer Crest Nicholson.

But after the company pulled out of the development last month, Mr Dennis said only a not-for-profit company will be able to transform the much-contested site.

“On a typical development, a for-profit company usually makes at least 20 per cent profit,” he said.

“We’ve crunched the numbers and we think developing the King Alfred is worth at least £250 million.

“The difference is we’re not going to be taking £50 million out of the city, as a private company would.

“We want to split any profit we make fifty fifty with the council.

“We will reinvest our half into fighting the housing crisis in Brighton.”

But Mr Dennis said he would need the city’s residents, the city council, or the Government to set up a reserve fund in case of any major problems during the development.

The businessman claimed Little Ships would be able to handle any smaller problems because it has a reserve fund made up of ten per cent of the build cost.

But it would need to raise public money or get financial backing from the council or the Government to guarantee the project goes ahead if a big issue is found.

“We will be fine to take on any smaller risk, but there will be big risks at the King Alfred,” Mr Dennis said.

“Nobody knows what the Navy could have been up to there during the war.

“But we’re digging up nine metres of soil across the whole site. We only need to worry about geology.

“The Government has been the guarantor for projects like HS2 and Hinkley Point C power station and the council would be a partner respected by financial markets.

“We don’t want any special favours but we believe we can beat any proposal made by a for-profit company.”

A council spokeswoman said it was exploring “alternative delivery options” for the leisure centre but did not say if it would reopen the process. She said: “An update on the next steps for the King Alfred will be presented to our policy and resources committee on October 10.”