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King Alfred Quarter, Urban Regeneration

This is NOT a typical Little Ships site. Far from it. You'll see from the other sites on this projects page that we seek out relatively small plots of under-utilised, publicly-owned land with bags of potential and use smart, innovative design to tackle the housing crisis.

So, why are we interested in the King Alfred site? There is no doubt that this is a large and complex project – but we think one of the key reasons that plans have stalled and failed is because developers need to generate large profits to keep shareholders happy. That’s where Little Ships comes in. We’re not-for-profit. If you want to find out more about why a not-for-profit developer should transform King Alfred, click here for our blog which explains why. Read on to find out more about our proposal.

The designs shown here date from Brighton and Hove City Council’s last attempt to get a partner in 2014. Undertaken at the time by our founder’s architecture practice for the Council's original invitation to bid, that previous team didn't make the short-list. Crest Nicholson won the bid, but have now withdrawn.

The Little Ships' scheme is a comprehensive urban regeneration scheme based around three grand public squares and side streets providing a bustling urban landscape of cafés, bars, restaurants and office spaces at ground floor level, as well as the entrances to 550 new homes in the predominantly six-storey above ground level scheme, containing roughly the same number of flats as the Crest scheme . The districts of Mayfair in London or "Eixample" in Barcelona show how medium rise can be very densely populated if cleverly designed.

Our scheme fits better with the Brighton and Hove seafront. The massing and arrangement is very traditional, but the buildings (when they are designed) will be varied, ecological, contemporary updates on our beautiful seafront Regency squares, crescents and terraces. This proposal has 550 flats and the basement footprint could extend up to 17,000 square metres, including the temporary car-parks (the split level car-park decks could one day be easily removed for when car-parking becomes increasingly redundant).

The basement will be expensive to dig, but we've allowed for that and whilst the retaining walls will be more expensive, we'll integrate them into the building foundations. Also we don't have to pay for all the external wall finishes outside with glass and blinds and high performance air conditioning that'll be needed for the glazed south facing studios. The bad news is the gym and pools don't get sea views, the good news is that all the bars, cafes restaurants and offices at ground level do.

We haven't designed the above ground buildings, they would be subject to competition(s), but we have commissioned some initial designs for the public squares and lanes from Landscape Architects Outerspace with a formal central square which will be ideal for public events, and some less formal squares to the east and west with lots of (sea-side friendly) planting.

We think simplicity is the name of the game here. The proposal is a very large simple open-topped box basement built in three phases which keeps costs down and allows at least one new swimming pool to open the day the old King Alfred closes. The basement retaining walls and the building frames would normally be built in concrete; we will look carefully at safe and cost effective alternatives to cement based structures that are much less environmentally harmful, but sometimes concrete is critical (eg. for strength, fire protection, sound resistance etc.).

Once the basement walls and building frames are built (the skeleton is in place), the buildings get finished off by smaller specialist builders and local tradespeople and suppliers. We'll assess risks very early (such as flooding and ground conditions) and then make an outline planning application for the design confirming the internal uses (leisure centre in the basement, mixed use and public spaces at ground floor and residential above) and a few other critical issues. A quick outline planning decision withe simple services strategy allows us to start building sooner, whilst we get on with the architectural competition(s) and detailed planning applications on the main buildings.

Some people will worry about this fast-track approach, but we've got some exciting ideas about how the building competition(s) could be made to work for creating good communities and good architecture. What's certain is that there will be a grand triple height entrance foyer to an inspiring basement leisure complex which can be the same size and have the same facilities as those currently proposed by The Starr Trust.

Our solution is an innovative use of space, sensitive to the needs of the local area and focused on creating cohesive communities, not cash for shareholders who don't live here.

The city has waited long enough for this site to be redeveloped. We've costed our proposal and with a not-for-profit model, we can create decent, affordable homes and vastly improved leisure facilities.

  • Number of homes − 550
  • Location − Brighton and Hove
  • Difficulty − Hard
  • Controversy − Popular
  • Ownership − Brighton and Hove City Council
  • Current status − Site identified
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