Redevelopment options for Eastbourne’s Sovereign Centre site explored

Sovereign Centre,  Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-161123-082448008
Sovereign Centre, Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-161123-082448008

Redevelopment options for the Sovereign Centre site when a replacement leisure facility is built next door are being explored.

Eastbourne Borough Council is planning a new leisure complex and swimming pool on land currently occupied by the existing centre’s car park.

This would leave the existing site vacant and options for its redevelopment were discussed by the council’s scrutiny Sovereign Centre task group on Wednesday night (September 26).

Councillors spoke in favour of looking at a multi-use scheme which would include part residential and part leisure and entertainment facilities.

The only option strongly opposed at this point was a supermarket.

Some of the possible uses mentioned included a hotel, spa, casino, ten-pin bowling or outdoor adventure activity facility.

Jess Haines, head of commercial business, described how a very soft-market testing exercise had shown plenty of interest in the site. She said: “There is a good market. Eastbourne has seen a good level of economic growth.”

In developing any scheme they would have to work with the planning department to ensure any options would be acceptable in planning terms.

She added: “This is the very beginning of the journey rather than the conclusion.”

Colin Belsey (Con, Ratton) suggested they look at an element of residential accommodation similar to the blocks of flats at Sovereign Harbour given the proximity of the site to Monarch House in Royal Parade.

Jim Murray (Lib Dem, Hampden Park) questioned whether the council would want to either sell the site completely or retain a freehold interest.

He added: “It’s coming up with something innovative that’s going to be inside and be the up and coming trend.”

Ms Haines said: “Once we decide what options we want to look at for the site we can consider how we market it and stipulate what we would accept.”

Cllr Belsey felt only a motel would be attracted to the site, but Paul Metcalfe (Con, Sovereign) suggested because of its seafront location more upmarket hotel chains may also be interested. He said a high-end hotel could link well with the conference centre and tennis facilities.

Cllr Murray added: “There’s nothing really off the table apart from a supermarket.”

Officers will now work up options and report back to the group early next year.

It was explained at the meeting that subject to planning permission being secured work on the new replacement leisure centre could begin in July 2019 with construction completed in early 2021.

This would mean the Sovereign Centre site could be vacant and available for redevelopment in 2022 or 2023.

Karen Dunn , Local Democracy Reporting Service