CONSTRUCTION work has finally begun on the £130 million cultural quarter redevelopment of a former fruit and vegetable market.

Developers U+I has announced construction work for the Circus Street project of new homes, student rooms, offices, restaurants and a major dance studio has begun.

It follows a series of delays for the scheme, approved by planning committee almost three years ago, which left some questioning whether work would ever begin.

It is now hoped much of the scheme will be ready in two years’ time with office and shops coming on to the market for prospective tenants in around six months.

Piling is now underway on site after funding for project was secured with GCP Student Living plc, the UK’s first real estate in vestment trust for student accommodation, and Gravis Capital Management Limited.

The public private partnership between U+I and Brighton and Hove Council will create more than 400 jobs and inject £200 million into the economy over the next decade.

More than 140 homes; 450 student bedrooms; 30,000 sq ft of offices space and start-up workshops will be built.

Independent restaurants and shops will line a public square which will also be bordered by a state-of-the-art space for South East Dance.

The value of the scheme has increased £30 million in recent months because of the rising student accommodation market.

The renovation of the former market site has been proposed for more than a decade.

Originally it was hoped the first student buildings might be completed last summer and the whole scheme before this year was out.

U+I were forced to retender construction contracts because of rising costs and the delay in starting work saw University of Brighton put their involvement in the scheme, with the construction of an academic building including a library, put on hold for the foreseeable future.

Richard Upton, U+I deputy chief executive said: “This is a major milestone for our Circus Street regeneration project and for Brighton at large.

“This truly mixed-use project will transform a long-overlooked site, creating a vibrant new place and bringing substantial cultural and socio-economic benefits to this creative and energetic city. We are thrilled to be underway with construction, moving closer to fulfilling our ambition to deliver for Brighton a meaningful regeneration project that will revitalise the local area.”

Cllr Warren Morgan, Brighton and Hove City Council leader, said: “It is great to see progress continuing on this important scheme in the heart of the city.”

“Many people stand to benefit from the new homes, jobs and business spaces, alongside new community and cultural facilities.”

Tom Ward, Gravis Capital Management director, said: “We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with U+I for the delivery of this exciting development which will deliver high quality new homes, purpose-built student accommodation and commercial premises in the heart of Brighton.”

Hofesh Shechter, Dance Space ambassador and former Brighton Festival guest director, said: “This is such positive news for advancing the infrastructure of dance. The Dance Space will allow South East Dance to significantly build upon their formidable reputation for delivering cutting edge projects and commissions.”

Conservative Cllr Geoffrey Theobald said he was very pleased the project was getting started “after all these years”.

He added: “ I’m particularly pleased the delays have not affected the grant for the building of the state of the art home for South East Dance – a vital part of the scheme.

“I would like to pay tribute to council officers who I know have spent an enormous amount of time trying to get this scheme up and running.

“It took many years to get to planning permission stage and then, even after this was granted, there have still been tortuous negotiations finally to get spades in the ground.”