King Alfred Refusal

Almost every week, there is breaking news relating to the King Alfred project and, quite frankly, it has been hard to keep up. Now that the development in its Gehry incarnation has finally died, there really is a discussion to be had – and I have strong views on what should happen next.

A referendum should be held. The people of Brighton & Hove are so disillusioned with the whole process and it will take years to heal the damage that has been done. Giving residents a proper say in what happens around them is the first step towards pacification. I am happy to leave it to our elected representatives to decide exactly what should be voted upon though it should be a major element. "But having a referendum on this might set a precedent for other important proposals." Ermmm…that’s the idea, stupid!

Hove Marina was built in 1939 as a swimming centre to replace the nearby Medina Baths. However, it was immediately requisitioned at the outbreak of the Second World War as a training facility and commissioned as HMS King Alfred. 22,500 officers from all over the empire were trained in the building including my great-uncle, Robert Millar. After the war it was re-opened as a sports centre in August 1946 by Admiral Layton – and its new name stuck.

There have been calls for a new leisure centre for many years but the competition in which Karis/ING’s Frank Gehry towers scheme won wasn’t held until 2003. Karis/ING saw off designs from Wilkininson Eyre and Richard Rogers with a tall and colourful design that simply wasn’t suited to the surrounding architecture. It has bothered me that there has been much personal criticism of the three men who were perhaps most heavily involved – Josh Arghiros (the boss of Karis), Ken Bodfish (the Council Leader who initiated the project) and even Frank Gehry himself, perhaps the greatest living architect. Bringing world-class architects to Brighton & Hove is good news and it’s a shame that the previous administration got its brief so wrong. I’m sure that its aims were honourable though.

If local residents are to connect with local politicians, it is important for them to have a much bigger say in and, indeed, an opportunity to work on, what takes place locally. Consultation is vital too but it’s not enough – referenda would lead to that all-important sea change which is so badly needed.