Sovereign Centre site ‘should be mix of housing, leisure facilities and restaurants’

The Sovereign Centre site in Eastbourne may have a future as a mixed development of housing, leisure and eateries following recommendations from a council scrutiny group.

Thursday, 24th January 2019, 10:19 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 6:49 pm
Sovereign Centre,  Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-161123-082448008
Sovereign Centre, Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-161123-082448008

With plans to build a new leisure complex and swimming pool in the car park of the current centre,  Eastbourne Borough Council has been looking at what options there are for the soon-to-be vacant site.

To do this a group of councillors formed a scrutiny task group, which held its final meeting on Wednesday (January 23).

At the meeting the group’s chairman Paul Metcalfe summed up the recommendations for the site. He said: “I think the resolution is what we have said in terms of the type of use and that is mixed.

“Mixed residential, leisure and retail in terms of restaurants and, if possible within the commercial side of it, a hotel.”

Before reaching its final recommendation, the group heard from planning advisors SHW on what sorts of development would be most feasible.

SHW advised that the site would be more viable (and attractive to developers) if it included some element of housing – either for rental or sale at market price.

The advisors also cautioned against planning for office space, saying large office spaces struggle outside of Brighton.

However, SHW said, using the site for some form of leisure activities had proven successful elsewhere – using the development of the Splashpoint in Worthing and the Yellowave Beach Sports centre in Brighton as examples.

The group also heard advice about including a small convenience store within the development but councillors were resistant to this due to other similar stores already being nearby.

Councillors also discussed the inclusion of a large apartment building on the development site.  

Pat Rodohan (Lib Dem, Upperton) said: “There has to be an element of recreation there, because it is next to recreation I think we have to add to that, not just for tourists but for people of the town.

“I think it can become the go to place for leisure and enjoyment in Eastbourne but we all know that it is hard to make leisure pay for itself therefore we have to got to have other components to pay for that.

“Reluctantly, part of that may have to be paid for by a tall residential building, that we might not really want but would need.”

In considering the possibility of a large residential building, councillors agreed that design would be a priority.

Due to the prominence of the site, Jim Murray (Lib Dem, Hampden Park) raised the possibility of holding an architectural competition in hopes of attracting a range of high-quality designs.

Meanwhile, Colin Belsey (Con, Ratton) said:  “I think it has got to be so different to be imaginable, it has got to be out to be so out of context with what Eastbourne is, because we are a Victorian town.

“It has got to drag us into the 22nd century. The last thing we want is a concrete bunker.”

Details of the recommendation are to be worked up by officers over the next six months or so, before being presented to the council’s scrutiny committee in June and the council’s cabinet shortly afterwards.